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A closer look at the digital health pilots' impact in Tanzania.

Mission Mbagala Dispensary was one of the clinics enrolled in PharmAccess’ digital health pilots. These pilots ranged from digital interventions in cooperation with local Mobile Network Tigo and Vodacom to the distribution of m-health wallet to a selection of clients. These m-health wallets were linked to a rechargeable smartcard, which allowed clients to pre-pay their healthcare with their phones. Overall, we were trying to explore the willingness from patients and healthcare providers to switch from cash to digital payments. Today, we will be circling back to Mission Mbagala Dispensary to see what these initiatives have changed for their clinic and their community.

 

“Before starting digital interventions, I must admit we had no consistent cash-flow and management was poor. Anyone could access the cashier’s desk, money was not well secured, and leakages were hard to trace”

 

These pilots have drastically reformed Mission Mbagala Dispensary’s financial administration. The facility manager shares that “before starting digital interventions, I must admit we had no consistent cash-flow and management was poor. Anyone could access the cashier’s desk, money was not well secured, and leakages were hard to trace.” Now, financial transparency has increased as all data is produced in real-time and can be accessed from anywhere. “Our Executive Director was travelling overseas last year, but he was still receiving daily notifications of the transactions made to our bank account” adds an employee.

 

Besides making their financial administration more secure, the pilot has helped Mission Mbagala Dispensary to use data to make financial decisions. One employee shares “We have increased revenue by 25% and this can be attributed to two factors: Firstly, the payments are more secure, and the number of leakages has dramatically decreased, because more than 80% of clients have converted to a cashless mode of payment. Secondly, we have experienced an increased number of visits”. The digital platform has inspired the facility to take it even further “Now, we aspire to become fully paperless with all the lab tests being carried out using digitalized devices. Going fully digital is no longer optional but necessary to sustain our business” argues facility administrator William Erick.

 

“Now, we aspire to become fully paperless with all the lab tests being carried out using digitalized devices. Going fully digital is no longer optional but necessary to sustain our business”

 

Besides transforming their own facility, the pilot has also affected the community where Mission Mbagala Dispensary is based. The introduction of digital payments channels at the facility has advocated a culture of saving for healthcare using mobile phones. Approximately 30% of patients are saving for healthcare now and the number keeps growing. This may be due to the fact that using mobile money has enabled relatives and friends of patients to pay the facility from a distance or top up a patient’s savings. Digital payment has also improved the access to healthcare as patients no longer have to queue to pay. The facility’s administrator has seen how this change was received: “Due to increased client satisfaction, clients have positively rated our quality of service and how fast we can deliver that service.”

 

In this changing digital landscape the facility identified some challenges which include: the illiteracy of the clients who use mobile phones, the complicated mobile money menus that are not user friendly hosted by mobile network operators and aggregators, the attitude of the staff, and the time it takes for a transfer to be cancelled which inconveniences the patients.

 

“We would like to lead our business with a stronger base of technological competence and applications in order to provide our clients with improved quality of healthcare and service.”

 

Despite such challenges, the management has the aspiration to become fully cashless and fully digitalized. “We would like to lead our business with a stronger base of technological competence and applications in order to provide our clients with improved quality of healthcare and service.” enthusiastically states the executive director, Dr. John.