Digital Payments Changing Healthcare Delivery

Photos Courtesy of Vodafone Foundation/ Fistula Patients receive treatment at CCBRT in  Tanzania.

Photos Courtesy of Vodafone Foundation/ Fistula Patients receive treatment at CCBRT in Tanzania.

According to a 2013 USAid report, public health schemes rely heavily on cash: to make payments for medical services, to pay health workers, to buy drugs at pharmacies. Yet it is becoming increasingly apparent that digital payments in rural, remote areas settings are quicker, easier, and safer. The likelihood of fraud drops as fewer hands are needed to transfer the money. And the transaction costs decline, making it cheaper for providers to reach rural populations. This translates into scale – a sought after goal in most public health projects – enabling organisations to cover larger areas with their services.

A digital trail also allows for easy data collection, auditing, and transparency, all of which is essential in health programming. Ultimately, USAid suggests programmes could create sustainable business models, becoming less dependant on donor funding and build relationships with new corporate partners. But what is the evidence?

Here are three projects that illustrate how technology, and more specifically, mobile money, can improve the reach and result of healthcare initiatives.

Obstetric fistula is a disabling condition that leaves women incontinent as a result of prolonged or obstructed labour. Despite corrective surgery being relatively cheap and easy to perform, hospital wards that could carry out the operation in Tanzania were largely empty.

β€œTransport is a very big barrier for these women,” says Erwin Telemans, chief executive of Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation hospital in Tanzania (CCBRT). With a choice between a two to three day trek or transportation costs varying between $15 and $60, many women decide instead to endure the pain and stigma.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

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