Photograph — ISG

The introduction of local mobile technology in the treatment of burns patients across two state hospitals in the Pietermaritzburg (Msunduzi) region of KwaZulu-Natal has resulted in significant improvements in both the speed and effectiveness of treatment. Consequently, this has materially improved the eventual outcome for patients. 

Signapps, a tech system developed by Cape-based Healthcent, is a mobile, secure, remote, real-time platform that operates on caregivers’ mobile phones.  The system allows doctors and others involved with a patient to communicate and collaborate remotely without necessarily being present with the patient.  All communications, including reports and other clinical data, are securely collected and are available on the cloud.

According to Dr Nikki Allorto, a surgeon specializing in the treatment of burns patients in Greys and Edendale Hospitals, Pietermaritzburg,  the big problem that exists when treating these patients is the lack of a consolidated, specialist burns unit, normally present in large hospitals.  

“The introduction of the Signapps communication platform on caregivers’ mobile phones has made a world of difference.  Because my patients are managed in six different wards in two different hospitals, it allows me to communicate with the doctor in the ward at the time of dressing change. It means immediate advice for the best wound treatment, which benefits the patient, who is not waiting with wounds exposed for the ward round. It is also an opportunity to teach junior doctors as they can see a large number of patient pictures,” Allorto said in a statement.

What difference has Signapps made?  

“The platform is a real-time, mobile system that enables clinicians to communicate with one another securely and remotely.  Using Signapps, patient status information is sent immediately by the treating doctor to other members of the treating team, specifically to the specialist burn surgeons.  This information pack includes images of the burn injury, which enables surgeons to prescribe key medications and interventions without being on-site.  The prognosis improves dramatically,” says Allorto.

Allorto further explains that Signapps’ method is more efficient and effective as it replaces the previous system of lengthy ward rounds, a slow and inefficient process.  She also noted findings that “Signapps saves vast amounts of precious specialist time and speeds up the treatment of burns injuries in the wards.”

The problem of burn injuries in the Pietermaritzburg region is substantial.  In round numbers, about 1000 burns patients arrive at the two hospitals every year.  “That’s nearly three a day.  Children account for about 60 percent of the patients and these are mostly burns resulting from being in contact with boiling water, which is incredibly painful and can be disfiguring.  Adult burn injuries usually result from some sort of flame or fire,” she added.

Nevertheless,  Allorto concludes that “it’s difficult to quantify the improvement in burn patient care and outcomes using Signapps, but anecdotally I am certain that it has made a world of difference.” Yet, she agrees that “it would not be an exaggeration to say that Signapps has been one of the most important improvement modalities” in the care of patients since he started to practice.

In a statement, Andrew Davies, CEO of Signapps, says that “the care of paediatric burn patients is a particularly emotional one and Signapps is extremely proud to be associated with Dr Allorto and to partner her in the exceptional work she is doing at Greys and Edendale Hospitals and through the South African Burn Care Trust.”  

Healthcare is in the process of being reframed by technology which holds enormous potential to drive efficiencies for clinicians, saving them time, and improving outcomes for patients.  The collection and use of data at the point of care will drive how clinicians deliver care now and into the future. The capability our platform enables to capture data, extrapolate insights and put clinicians in a position to collaborate around data points lies at the core of Signapps’ vision. 

“Dr Allorto and the SA Burn Care Trust are breaking new ground in the area of data collection and collaboration and it is a privilege to be working with them in this very important area of Healthcare,” Davies said.

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