Roundtable Reflections on Designing and Implementing Effective Digital Self-Care for HIV

On the 25th of November 2021, Aviro hosted a virtual roundtable discussion to unravel how organisations can effectively design and implement digital self-care tools for HIV. In attendance were Aviro Health CEO, Dr. Musaed Abrahams, Dr. Thato Chidarikire from the National Department of Health, valued partners from Population Services Kenya, Health Systems Trust and Medicins Sans Frontiers, as well as community members. 

During the session, insights were shared on the opportunities, challenges and learnings that have emerged over the last few years in the medical design field. One of such learnings is that it is always people-centred and data driven design that succeeds in getting the buy-in of both patients and healthcare workers. Aviro Health CEO, Dr. Musaed Abrahams said, “It is important to show patients the value before asking for something from them. There needs to be a reconstruction of the flow, where we front  pre-test and post-test counselling for the benefit of the patients [before anything else].”

The participants discussed how digitally supported self-care interventions have the potential to support the health system by reducing the workload for the healthcare worker and empowering the patient.Thus, the best way to harness this potential is to be intentional in meaningfully integrating digital health interventions as one of the modalities supporting  the healthcare system.

The discussants also mentioned that most patients are in favour of digital healthcare tools because of various privacy-related reasons. A crucial part of ensuring equitable access and uptake of digital health intervention is to ensure holistic change management, with co-creation being at the center of developing comprehensive digitally-assisted self-care interventions. Trust and legitimacy is essential for patient uptake and reporting  their health outcomes and working closely with the brands and systems of existing health providers is essential to widespread adoption of digitally-assisted self-care.

The passionate discussants highlighted their experience with supporting HIV self-testing and linking HIV positive patients to care for ART. The most important factor that was raised regarding this was the need to train healthcare workers, who are not necessarily experienced in sales, to promote to patients the benefits of using digital platforms to test and interpret their results and then approach healthcare workers for further assistance if need be. 

“The service provider must see the benefits of the digital platform and enforce that on patients, making it a default modality,” said Damien Hacking, CoCT Health Department. 

To help healthcare workers to integrate the Pocket Clinic into their care delivery, Aviro provides health staff with training, communication materials, and simple digital tools that help them to initiate, monitor, track and support their patients, while the automated platform handles most of the interactions with the patient. Dr. Thato Chidarikire from the National Department of Health agreed and went further to say, “We need to strengthen the reach digitally, to ensure that communities are able to connect to messaging via digital platforms.”

“We are supporting health providers with an eHealth solution that’s been specifically developed to provide efficient, user-friendly and equitable access to healthcare. This is a complete patient self-care solution that will dramatically improve the capacity of the health system to manage patients and their data without a health worker present, while also ensuring the availability of information to support more efficient and effective self-care. This will be transformative for the many people in Africa who’ve struggled to gain access to quality healthcare,” said Aviro Health CEO, Dr.Musaed Abrahams. 

This integrated system is an example of technology making it possible to reach many more people than the traditional healthcare system can alone, so it is crucial that digital tools transcend HIV testing, and incorporate effective prevention services.

The roundtable discussion created a platform for the organisations in attendance to commend the impact that digital healthcare tools have had on the lives of clients and healthcare workers. The excitement around medical design is said to be centred on the fact that users are empowered to learn about HIV so easily, and perform important health checks like regular HIV self-testing. Likewise, healthcare workers are empowered to focus more on high-demand cases, especially in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. The future of healthcare is in digital self-care and with Pocket Clinic we will help organisations support more patients and further fight the HIV epidemic.

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