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The six-month pilot of a webbased solution developed by Nelson Mandela University’s Centre for Community Technologies to track, trace and follow up on tuberculosis patients in Wells Estate has drawn to a close.

The solution, DigiTB, rolled out with the assistance of Mfesane, a non-government organisation (NGO) that has been assisting in TB programmes in Wells Estate, allowed five community healthcare workers to create an electronic medical record for a patient, capture patient data and record medication compliance.

The Centre for Community Technologies trained the five and also provided the devices used in the pilot phase as well as internet access.

Though some of the healthcare workers were still attached to their paper-based assessments, they soon realised the web-based solution made their work much easier.

Nombuyiselo Vukenini, a community healthcare worker since 2017, said the experience was enlightening.

“There were no door-todoor visits and no paperwork.

“It was also safer to use this solution because of Covid-19.

“Most of all, the patients do not like the neighbours to see us doing home visits in our uniforms.

“Doing it in the new way helped the patients feel comfortable.”

Her colleague, Nomandla Mtamzeli, said the experience was exciting because TB education took place at the same time.

“We did the video observation treatment [Vot] and that was fascinating because it meant we did not have to travel to see our patients.

“We could also assess how they were doing by looking at their appearance on the Vot.”

Mfesane programme manager Wendy Ndima said the centre’s assistance had enabled them to follow their mission and vision as well as their quest to develop the knowledge of community healthcare workers.

“We do not want them to be stuck doing things the same way,” she said.

“We want them to grow and develop in the way they do their work.

“Six months was enough to learn how the system works.

“Because they were working with [fewer] patients, they could spend time learning the system and educate the patients. The more the patients understood what was happening, it became easier for them to take responsibility for their health.

“They understood that they needed to protect their families as well,”

Centre for Community Technologies senior project manager Johan Botha said because TB was one of the biggest causes of death in SA, the idea was to refine the programme and roll it out to other locations.

“As soon as the data is analysed, we will be able to see what the learning was, the successes and what could be improved,” he said.

The next phase would include the HIV component.

Centre for Community Technologies director Prof Darelle van Greunen said the web-based solution would now be used in some Nelson Mandela Bay clinics as part of a PhD study.

     This article appeared in The Herald (South Africa) on 7 September 2021 written by Roslyn Baatjies