BY EVERSON MUSHAVA
THE COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the global economy and Africa’s fragile economies have not been spared. As lockdowns have restricted movements, new ways of how doctors attend to patients have had to be devised. With this in mind, a Zimbabwean start-up, epione.net has introduced a pre-screening symptom checker that connects the healthcare value chain to save lives.
NewsDay (ND) news editor Everson Mushava had a chat with epione.net chief executive Garikai Govati (GG) to find out how it works. Below are excerpts of the interview.
ND: Can you tell us what epione.net is?
GG: epione.net is an end-to-end healthcare platform that seamlessly connects all stakeholders in the healthcare value chain for improved patient care delivery. It has an electronic health record module that allows all those collaborating on a patient to safely and securely access the patient’s information for comprehensive healthcare provision. It acts as a central repository of medical records with other capabilities ranging from bookings for appointments and tests, electronic referrals to higher levels of care. The platform was designed and developed in consultation with stakeholders in the healthcare value chain. It works in both private and public systems. Our platform knows no borders, but observes local regulations and allows for the connection of healthcare seekers and healthcare providers regardless of which country they are based in. Therefore, from a scalability point of view, we are able to reach and connect, either virtually or, if need be, physically, the whole African continent.
ND: How does it really work?
GG: You download the epione.net patients app on your mobile phone for free, create your profile in a few easy steps, log in, go to “Find Doctors’ and say, for COVID-19, select the COVID-19 screening filter to find doctors doing the test, book an appointment to get your PCR test done and results will be uploaded under ‘Diagnostics” on your profile. There is also an option to book directly with a lab oratory such as Lancet Laboratories. You can even use the symptom tracker to monitor your COVID-19 symptoms during your trip. You can also grant access for your doctor on the app to monitor you remotely.
ND: What motivated you to develop the app?
GG: The absence of an end-to-end healthtech platform that connects all stakeholders and enabling collaboration on patient care across the African continent. One of the biggest challenges within many health systems in Africa, and globally, is the lack of an end-to-end patient care coordination and management system. There has been considerable growth in technological solutions within the healthcare space, from booking systems to electronic medical records and billing platforms. However, these solutions only offer a limited view of the patient’s medical journey. The same can be said for solutions designed to specifically address COVID-19; the health space is increasingly flooded with once-off solutions that are disconnected from the broader chain of care. It is in-fact one of the ironies of the technological revolution that innovations meant to connect are inadvertently contributing to a disconnected health system. At the individual level, it can lead to death due to doctors not having access to records at the time they need it most. Epione.net was designed with Africans in mind. It is platform agnostic, can work online or offline.
ND: Any exciting features for industry?
GG: We also created a new product suite – ReOpen. Here we have enhanced our healthtech solution to allow any organisation in any industry in private and public sectors, to conduct entirely digital, contactless entrance screenings for their employees, guests and customers easily and efficiently.
However, our COVID-19 solution (ReOpen) does do a lot more than many other screening solutions, and that’s because we have leveraged different elements of our existing digital healthcare solution to cater for this. There are three main components to our solution; and they’re all linked together seamlessly.
ND: So, how do companies reopen safely with epione.net?
GG: Epione.net has enhanced their online healthcare solution to allow any organisation in any industry to conduct contactless entrance screenings for their employees, guests and customers easily and efficiently.
ND: Many tourism players are turning to technology in the new normal to ensure guests have safe experiences. How does your mobile app contribute to this?
GG: We have partnered with the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) to help reopen Zimbabwe safely.
This really makes life safer and easier for us all! Whether you’re heading out for a safari experience simply grabbing a much-needed coffee at your favourite coffee spot, or just need to pop into work, the process is the same. Just show your personalised QR code at the entrance, and your latest screened symptoms will be made available to them.
ND: Who is behind it and what were the reasons for establishing such an enterprise?
GG: Myself, Rhobhi Matinyi (co-founder and chief strategy officer), Farai Chikumbu (co-founder and chief technology officer), and Jessica Chivinge, also a co-founder and chief operating officer. The company has been launched in South Africa and is now live in Zimbabwe with the view of expanding it to the region and the whole continent.
ND: And the name of the company?
The company name is inspired by Epione, the Greek goddess of the soothing of pain and that is exactly what we aim to do. We believe healthcare is about fostering collaboration and increasing access to quality and affordable healthcare for all, using one true source of information.
ND: Any plans for expansion?
GG: We are currently live in Zimbabwe and South Africa and plan to expand to the rest of the continent first in the short-term, and then eventually the world. Technically, the COVID-19 self-screening portion of the app can already be used by anyone, anywhere in the world. We have users as far afield as China, the USA and Spain that have downloaded and used the free epione.net patient app for exactly those purposes.
- This article first appeared in NewsDay’s sister paper, Weekly Digest
- Follow Everson on Twitter @EversonMushava