Babyl to offer medical care services on mobile phone

Sunday January 14 2018

The digital medical services will be available

The digital medical services will be available to subscribers of Mutuelle de Santé and RAMA medical schemes. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NATION 

By JEAN-PIERRE AFADHALI
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Healthcare insurance subscribers will now access medical consultations and prescriptions through their mobile phones and computers, through a platform by British technology company Babyl.

Subscribers of the community-based insurance scheme Mutuelle de Santé and public servants registered on RAMA health insurance will be among the beneficiaries. This follows an agreement signed between Ministry of Health, Rwanda Social Security Board and Babyl.

The platform is expected to mainly benefit people who live in remote areas far from health centres. Subscribers will dial a number to register and book an appointment, then the medical service provider calls the user back and proceeds to offer medical consultation.

According to the Ministry of Health, the government targets to have 2,148 health centres in seven years. This will result in a heath post in very cell from the current average of one health centre for three cells.

“The use of technology will increase medical care accessibility to more people,” said Minister of Health, Diane Gashuba, while adding that it will reduce the long waiting time people are currently spending at health facilities.

The digital health care is also expected to reduce self-medication, which sometimes results in more health problems.

No access

“We live in a world where over 50 per cent of the population has little or no access to healthcare yet most of us have a mobile phone,” said CEO of Babyl, Tracey McNeil.

However, the new healthcare partnership will not start immediately for Mutuelle de Santé subscribers as the system will be first piloted in Rwamagana district next month before expanding to other districts.

Rwamagana district has been chosen because of its  network coverage, close proximity to Kigali, insurance coverage and Internet connection. RAMA subscribers will start accessing the digital medical services across the country in February.

Babyl said, currently, consultations cost Rwf500 ($0.58), which is a promotional price.

Wait a bit

While those with popular community based insurance will wait a bit to access insured digital medical services, RAMA subscribers the will start accessing the services countrywide in February.

Babyl said it has been working with private clinics to offer their services to RAMA subscribers. Mutuele de Santé mainly works with public health facilities. Babyl’s system is already integrated with private health facilities.

“We need to train public health facilities on the use of our technology, such as using a port for pharmacies, laboratories and referral hospitals,” Patrick Singa, the medical director at Babyl told Rwanda Today.

Official data shows 81 per cent of the population has subscribed to the community- based health insurance, while the rest use RAMA  or other medical schemes.

According to Babyl about 750,000 people have been using its digital healthcare services since 2016. The company said about 70 per cent of its users are in the rural areas.