A health information app developed by the SA Medical Research Council (MRC) is proving a hit among primary healthcare (PHC) workers, who can quickly confirm important information with a tap on a cellphone.
The free, quickly-installed PHC Clinical Guide was developed for the department of health by the council's innovation unit and is already used by about 10 000 clinicians.
It is a treasure trove of information that covers minor common health ailments to serious, recommended treatment protocols, gives the cost of medicine, the codes for diagnoses, and also explains when to refer cases.
The in-depth information available ranges from seemingly minor problems, like a teething baby, to serious issues such as heart attacks or receiving a child at a trauma unit.
It provides step-by-step guidelines for clinicians, ranging from diagnoses to correct medicine dosages, and how to administer the medicine.
Project manager Zoleka Ngcete told Parliament's health committee on Wednesday (6 April) that not only does the smartphone app make busy clinic workers' lives easier, it also generates information on new disease and illness patterns, based on common search terms.
This information is of value to the department of health.
It can monitor the data generated for real time early warnings on illnesses or diseases on the rise, or pinpoint regions where searches indicate a spike in the number of people with the same ailment. This helps the department adjust its planning accordingly.
Sometimes the most common search terms used in a particular period surprise those monitoring disease patterns. Recently a popular search was "hypertension in adults", giving health planners clues on how their disease projections are shifting.
The mobile application presents the Standard Treatment Guidelines and Essential Medicines List for South Africa and contains standard treatment guidelines from the department of health.
The information was prepared by a huge number of specialists in their fields and includes important contact details such as government hospitals, clinics and centres for communicable diseases.
The app is available in the Google Play store.
Ngcete was part of a MRC delegation that presented feedback on its work and how it spent its money to the committee.