Pioneering app technology

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The Mercy Ships screening app – a pilot project to streamline the screening process.

Screening patients for surgery with the Africa Mercy comes with its challenges. Each year thousands of local people, who have been suffering from numerous conditions, can spend days waiting in line with the hope of being selected for life-saving surgery.

To make the registration system work more effectively and to reach more people in need, Mercy Ships needed to come up with a solution to save time, energy and ensure a smoother journey for patients. The answer was the in-house design, proposal and roll out of a screening mobile app.

The Cameroonian government requested all 10 regions of the country be equally represented in patient selection. This meant revolutionising patient screening processes so hopefuls did not need to travel to the ship for surgical assessment. In many cases this was a huge burden due to the cost of travel, time away from family or being forced to come out of hiding.

In partnership with the government, Mercy Ships provided mobile phones and software training to 30 local healthcare professionals. These professionals searched the entire country prior to the ship’s arrival looking for people who might benefit from surgery. Over 11,000 potential patients registered after the initial five-week referral period.

Screening Supervisor Nate Claus says, ‘The software we are now using gives us far more data so we can see that 90% of our patients are coming from outside of the port city. It’s also given us a database of need that we didn’t have before.’ This allows for better tracking of a country’s current healthcare status can be utilised by the Ministry of Health for referrals to other non-governmental organizations.

Digitalising part of the screening process has enabled Mercy Ships to cast a wide net to reach individuals who otherwise would not have access to support. Saying ‘no’ to people in need of care is never easy as the need is great. But due to the development of this app, the screening process is working its way towards being more patient-friendly and effective for the people Mercy Ships aims to serve.