MTN Uganda in partnership with NITA-Uganda have today unveiled E-pass (Electronic pass) application that is intended to help the Ministry of Health track and geo-fence the movement of Covid-19 patients under Home Based Care —with the aim of reducing the number of non-critical patients that get admitted in hospitals.
At the height of the pandemic, many people would be rushed to health centers, even those that were not in critical conditions, a situation that overwhelmed health centers and also stretched the limited resources in hospitals. Therefore, the Ministry of Health decided to develop a Home Based Care policy in which non critical patients would be cared for and monitored from their homes or other locations outside the hospitals.
MTN Uganda and the National Information Technology Authority Uganda (NITA-U) decided to partner to develop an application that will ease the Ministry’s work on helping patients in Home Based Care by remotely tracking them and monitoring their health.
“The new app will go along away to helping government and the country to better manage resources as non-critical patients can now be monitored remotely from their locations of isolation,” MTN Uganda General Manager for MTN Business, Mr. Ibrahim Ssenyonga told members of the press during the launch of the app at the Ministry’s head offices in Kampala.
As a body digitizing literally everything government related, NITA-Uganda Executive Director, Dr. Hatwib Mugasa said that they are pleased with the solution as it will serve as a game changer in the management of Covid-19.
“We are very proud because of the local capacity we have to quickly develop an app of this kind that will change the way we manage the Covid-19 in the country. This coming at a time when the vaccine is already in the country is a big boost in government efforts to curb and minimize the spread of the pandemic,” Mugasa explained.
The application took four months to develop by a team from NITA-U, costing UGX460 million —with package including 400 smartphones from MTN Uganda that comes with the application, E-Pass installed on. Ssenyonga told press the cost of the 400 smartphones is UGX63 million and they will give more in the next phase.
The 400 smartphones were received by Dr. Okware Joseph on behalf of the Ministry —and will be given to Covid-19 patients under the Home Based Care. Upon recovery, the phones will be taken away and given to other patients. With the app installed on, the Ministry will be able to track the patients and monitor their health as well. With the app supporting geo-fencing capabilities, the Ministry will be alerted when the patient goes beyond the planned boundaries.
Ssenyonga and Mugasa explained, “That E-Pass will alert the ministry of health designated officials, in case a patient under surveillance goes outside of the planned location boundaries. That way, the ministry can minimize further spread, but also be able to locate some of the contacts in the areas where the patient might have veered off to.”
Alternatively to the app, Covid-19 patients can use the USSD code *260# but Mugasa emphasized that the app will be much better as it provides accuracy. And on the other note, feature phones don’t support high accurate sensors which only come with a smartphone.
The Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Diana Atwine thanked MTN Uganda and NITA-U for this intervention saying that it takes collective effort from every one to be able to defeat this disease.
“It is true that management of patients was quite a night mare for government and the health centers. We were having many people coming to hospitals that didn’t need to be there. And these were taking space for those that needed to be there the most. So this solution is very welcome and it is a win for us as a country in the management of this pandemic,” Atwine said.
Atwine also paid special tribute to MTN who she said have really stood through thick and thin with the ministry not only in the management of the pandemic but in many other health related initiatives over the years.
The telco has been at the forefront of supporting government in the fight against the pandemic, contributing over UGX2billion in various interventions through the year 2020.