mHealth services have potential to help reduce inequality in South African healthcare

The South African healthcare market is at a “critical juncture,” with profound inequalities between public and private healthcare, an escalation of costs, and critical shortages of healthcare professionals, according to a market study published by the GSMA. While it was noted that the government is already working to address gaps through the introduction of a new national health insurance scheme, “the efforts of the government and healthcare providers need to extend beyond the immediate problems and look to the future, embracing innovative new system designs which reduce the cost, extend the reach, and ultimately improve the health of the South African population.”

It was noted that the potential for mobile to make a difference in the healthcare sector is made possible by the 98 percent mobile penetration rate, offering near saturation of the market. Coupled with existing infrastructure, brand recognition, billing and data aggregation capabilities, this enables mobile stakeholders to begin looking at ways to increase the limited reach of public and private healthcare services.

The report characterises South Africa as having a “two tiered healthcare system,” with 14 percent of the South African population having access to 57 percent of South Africa’s total health expenditure. It was noted that there is evidence that mobile health products, when created in partnership with the government or private healthcare industry, can be used to deliver primary healthcare services and/or low income medical insurance and help to reduce the inequality across public and private healthcare services.

According to the survey, private health expenditure equates to 21 times the total combined revenue of all South African mobile operators, and “as well as revealing the huge costs of healthcare provision, this suggests that there is a real opportunity for mobile health to access a percentage of this healthcare revenue while simultaneously ensuring that total health expenditure is reduced and outcomes are improved.”

The GSMA has developed a Decision Support Toolkit, which provides a country-specific overview to identify gaps in the healthcare system and assess the possible opportunities that the mobile industry “can and should” consider. This is accompanied by a Market Entry Toolkit, which provides a framework for investigating the considerations needed to enter the mobile health market.

Learn more at www.mobilehealthlive.org

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