Mobile tech offers health identity for developing countries, GSMA research finds

Biometrics, deep learning, virtual pharmacy features and smartphones are being used to establish a digital identity resource in countries throughout Asia and Africa, according to a new report.
By Nathan Eddy
11:21 AM

Mobile technology can help identify patients and offer unique digital health identities, allowing for improvements in service delivery, according to a case study exploring four mobile-enabled health solutions in Africa and Asia.

WHY IT MATTERS

Backed by GSMA, the goal of the study was to highlight mobile technologies that are helping facilitate the creation of unique health identities in low-income countries.

In Asia and Africa, biometric identity specialist Element has developed a mobile software-only solution for biometric recognition that eliminates the need for special hardware and creates a portable identity that can be used on mobile devices.

The company’s end-to-end biometric solutions are used to provide a digital identity resource for healthcare providers.

Using the inbuilt cameras on smartphones and tablets, Element’s software captures images of a person’s biometric ‘modality’ such as palm or face, without use of specialized hardware, and uses Deep Learning algorithms to create a highly abstract, compact user profile unique to the individual.

Database architecture specialist Kea Medicals in Benin has developed a hospital information system that creates Universal Medical Identities that are then linked to a mobile scannable QR code, to allow access to a patient’s medical history.

During consultations, doctors can use their own mobile device to scan the patient’s QR code, validate the patient’s identity and access their medical records in a matter of seconds.

Once registered in the system, patients have the ability to access their medical history anywhere at any time. The aim is to aim to connect hospitals in Benin--and eventually across Africa--through a single database, which facilitates the management of patients’ medical information.

In Sri Lanka, a mobile-enabled doctor channeling service called Doc990 provides an integrated solution to both participating hospitals and prospective patients, streamlining the booking process and allowing patients to use their mobile devices to create a health profile, book appointments, access remote consultations and lab reports.

Features like a virtual pharmacy enable users to order and pay for prescription drugs by uploading a copy of their prescription to Doc990, while patients can also request health services to be delivered to their home or location of choice.

In Lesotho, which despite its small population has the second highest HIV prevalence in the world, the Vodafone Foundation, a charity registered in the U.K., and local affiliate Vodacom Lesotho, worked with a number of partners to design and launch an initiative aimed to increase the number of HIV-positive children being tested and accessing antiretroviral therapy (ART) over a three year period.

The solution was designed to be deployed nationally, and in particular to reach remote mountainous regions and aimed to raise awareness, improve accessibility and increase efficiency of the service through the use of mobile technology.

WHAT ELSE TO KNOW

The World Bank Identification for Development (ID4D) program highlighted in a recent report that access to digital identification is crucial to the efficient and effective delivery of health services.

An estimated one billion people worldwide, however, are unable to access proof of identity, making it difficult for them to access financial aid, prove their eligibility for treatment and to be accounted for in governments healthcare planning.

Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin. 

Email the writer: nathaneddy@gmail.com

Twitter: @dropdeaded209