Given the increasing brain drain of doctors leaving Africa, the issue of retention is a top priority for Ministries of Health (MOH) and medical schools in Africa. The MOHs want to incentivize physicians to both stay in country and go to the rural parts of the country. The medical schools are trying to entice students to practice in rural settings by increasing the quality and quantity of training in the community. The challenge is the measure of their success cannot be determined without a physician tracking system. There are few countries in the world with a physician tracking system.
That said, I heard at the mHealth Summit in Washington DC this week an innovative public-private initiative that has created a tracking system in Ghana, as an indirect benefit of a business venture. Vodafone (who only has 18%) of the market share in Ghana, teamed up with the Switchboard (a US company) and the Ghana medical association. They gave each of the 2200 doctors in the country (public and private) a sim card with which all the doctors could talk freely to each other. They were already spending minutes and money consulting each other – now these minutes were free. All the rest of their calls to non-physicians are charged. Vodafone got 100% of the physician market, making 1.3M in the process and the doctors got free calling to one another. When they distributed the SIM card, they collected names, specialty and place of practice – so now the MOH even has a tracking system to know where all their doctors are. They are now expanding to Tanzania.
That is mHealth at it’s best – innovative, scalable and sustainable. I like it.