The Free State Health Department is turning to digital innovations to streamline healthcare services and improve patient and healthcare outcomes. The province recently launched its digital health strategy with the focus on four key projects. 

 The first project is telemedicine. Speaking at the launch event, health MEC Mathabo Leeto, describes the technology as “game-changing”.  

“It brings specialists directly to patients, regardless of their location. Imagine a resident of a remote township in Xhariep consulting a cardiologist in Bloemfontein, all from the comfort of their local clinic,” she says. 

The second project signals a move away from paper records. 

“The department is saying goodbye to mountains of paper and hello to a streamlined, digital system. Patient records will be accessible electronically, improving efficiency, reducing errors, ensuring continuity of care. This will gradually help the department to respond more effectively to the ever increasing medico-legal challenges,” says Leeto. “We also have an electronic medical records system. This single, secure platform will house all patient data, providing healthcare professionals with a holistic view of each patient’s medical history. Imagine doctors making informed decisions based on real-time data, not fragmented files.”

Leeto says the department’s digital migration includes an electronic recruitment system that will enable job seekers to apply for vacancies digitally. 

“You will recall that  attracting and retaining skilled healthcare professionals is crucial. The  new electronic recruitment system will streamline the recruitment process, making it faster, fairer, and more transparent.” 

Finally, to improve the patient experience the department also introduced Bophelo mobile application. Through the app, public healthcare users in the province can search for nearby facilities, get the contact of facility managers, report unethical behaviour by staff and an ambulance.      

Hopes for better services

Free State resident, 23-year-old Thando Mashiane is over the moon to be able to book appointments at her local clinic in Heidedal using the app. 

Mashiane,  a student at the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein, says it was promising that the government was tapping into digital innovation and AI to improve health services.

“This shows that the government is looking to change the system to be fast-paced and do away with the traditional way of doing things. I can book appointments and be told when and what time to come for my consultation,” she says.

While the Free State Department of Health has taken a major leap by launching this digital initiative aimed at transforming service delivery. Many see the roll-out of these projects as an important milestone in the province’s journey towards digital health.

Tshepo Mabitla, another resident, applauds the department for introducing the projects adding that: “I wish we are not going to be told that the app has crashed or the system is down. It should be maintained for future use and help make systems easier to better our lives.”

Mabitla is excited that the Bophelo app will track the whereabouts of an ambulance which accepted the call from a patient. “The app for ambulance staff works like an e-hailing app where drivers need to accept the call seconds after a call is made. This will reduce the number of complaints we have with ambulances and it will also encourage the department to have roadworthy ambulances.” 

Speaking at the event, Free State Premier Mxolisi Dukwana says the launch shows that the health department is ready for full introduction of the National Health Insurance. 

“We have embarked on a journey to modernise and transform service delivery through technology. This launch marks an important milestone as we officially implemented strategic digital projects that will propel our province to the forefront of the digital future. The combined effect of all digital health solutions will greatly strengthen service delivery in the Free State. These solutions are aligned to our e-Health Strategy and the vision of rolling out universal healthcare through the NHI,” says Dukwana. – Health-e News

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