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SA Healthcare Innovates through Connectivity

Investments in telemetry make innovation in healthcare and other sectors a reality for SA

The power of technology becomes so much more important when it can save lives. South African start-ups are wasting no time in taking tech beyond convenience and using it to make a major difference in critical areas like healthcare. With access to the quality of connectivity and telemetry solutions required to make the benefits of industry 4.0 real, Quro Medical is one such start-up, bringing remote patient monitoring to homes and institutions across the country.

The value of the Internet of Things (IoT) for a business like Quro Medical is in the ability to make an impact for many people in many locations at once, without having to physically be in multiple places. MTN Business has invested in the network telemetry required to run IoT based solutions. Telemetry is the process of recording remote data and transmitting it in real-time, presenting the data in an easy to analyse format. When lives are at stake, as is the case with Quro Medical’s IoT product, network quality needs to be of a world class standard. The teams who monitor the data need to act fast when it comes to understanding the data and taking action in the event of a medical emergency.   MTN’s IoT connectivity offering has ensured that there are never delays in the data transmitted from a patient’s home to the healthcare professionals who work with Quro Medical.

“MTN provides a variety of IoT products based on SMEs’ data requirements. We provide tools which allow customers to manage, monitor and analyse their data usage in real-time,” says MTN Business’ Acting GM: SME, Songezo Masiso, of the solutions available for companies that want to deploy IoT solutions.

The US and Australia have led the way in IoT solutions for healthcare applications for a number of years. Quro Medical faced the challenge of finding reliable and affordable connectivity to make their solution work in South Africa, until they reached out to MTN Business. Today, the start-up perfectly illustrates the sort of innovation local businesses can bring to various industries when they have access to the best network and systems on which to run their platforms. This sort of innovation is exactly what South Africa needs.

The CEO of Quro Medical, Dr Vuyane Mhlomi, understands the urgent need for South African healthcare innovation from his own experience. Raised in Khayelitsha by his parents who suffered from chronic health conditions, Dr Vuyane spent countless hours in clinics and hospitals, waiting to see doctors and specialists. An opportunity to study medicine took Dr Vuyane to the University of Oxford and upon completion, he returned to South Africa determined to make a difference. Soon, Dr Vuyane gathered a team of like-minded people to launch Quro Medical – a company focused on technology-based solutions that aims to add real value in solving important challenges.

Much Needed Hospital at Home

Quro Medical has created a platform which enables the remote monitoring of patients’ vital signs. Patients wear various light, compact biosensors which collect vital signs and connect to a smartphone. Data about the vital signs is sent to a POPIA compliant Cloud Application for processing and is assessed by Quro Medical’s team of qualified health professionals at their clinical command centre. The patient’s referring doctor also has access to the patient’s data, all of which can be monitored minute-by-minute, around the clock.

Quro Medical’s Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer, Zikho Pali, explains that hospitals are not always the optimal environment for all patients. “Apart from the high and continuously escalating costs, traditional brick and mortar hospitalization carries with it the risk of hospital acquired infections that can be resistant to antibiotics and have serious consequences for vulnerable patients,” Pali adds. Quro Medical’s technology-enabled Hospital at Home solution offers an alternative to staying in a general ward for qualifying patients, with all the technology to pick up early signs of clinical deterioration and mobilise a healthcare team to intervene.

While the patient benefits from staying at home, the burden on full and understaffed hospitals is lessened too. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgency with which we need to take pressure off hospitals and technology like remote patient monitoring offers a valuable solution.

The Right Partner to Overcome Challenges

To create solutions that rely on technology in what is literally a matter of life and death, requires connectivity that can be relied on without question. Pali says, “one of the main challenges that we faced was securing reliable and affordable internet connectivity that can keep up with the performance requirements of our technology, to enable us to reach patients in under serviced communities.” Quro approached MTN Business for a solution, having previously deployed prepaid data SIM cards that made data management tricky for their specific application. The team provided a solution which removed the need for constantly topping up SIMs in the field. “To address the client’s requirements, we provided Quro Medical with mobile data connectivity in the form of MTN Made for Business Data S++ offering 6GB per month. We also provide Quro Medical with a daily usage report to address the client’s requirement to manage the data available,” explains Masiso. The report is generated through MTN’s telemetry platform, providing information about patient health as well as the amount of data used every day on each patient.

For Quro Medical, there can be no disruptions in the transfer of data from the patient to the command centre. “MTN has the best network coverage in the country. For our technology to be effective and safe to be used for patient monitoring, we need to minimise disconnections or prolonged interruptions in internet connectivity. In light of this, MTN was the obvious choice for us,” says Pali.

Partnering for Growth

While South Africa continues to make great strides in innovation, our journey into this sort of technology is still relatively new – as it is for the rest of the world. For this reason, the pooling of resources, sharing of knowledge and collaboration of skills is essential.  A partnership with an experienced and global service provider can certainly help growing SMEs reach their next business goal.

MTN Business take partnership beyond the provision of services. “We act as a trusted advisor to the client, providing insights into cutting edge technology. We engage with the client on a continuous basis to understand their business operating model as well as changes in their environment. We then assist clients with tailor made solutions to address their unique business requirements,” says Masiso of his day-to-day involvement with clients like Quro Medical.

Quro Medical plans to scale operations across the country to meet the growing demands of their client base. It took MTN 5 working days from Quro Medical’s request to provide the start-up with their telemetry based connectivity solution. As the company’s footprint grows, the deployment of additional connectivity will be just as swift.

Meeting South Africa’s Needs

Both the technology and network required to bring innovation to local healthcare are already available. MTN’s continued investments in connectivity and partnerships with digitally led businesses are what can make South Africa global leaders in healthcare innovation.

The Quro Medical team is among those who have taken the leap and actively sought out the best possible provider to enable their product. Pali notes that South Africa needs to be intentional about creating an enabling environment for technological innovation in healthcare. “This includes continuous infrastructure development and maintenance, as well as creating a supportive regulatory and business environment for emerging companies such as ours.”

While more South African companies start weaving digital into the foundations of their businesses, telcos who see a digital future will play an active role in enabling them.

MTN is a proud Partner of the NSBC