One of the strengths of the transportMYpatient is efficiency and responsiveness. Within a few minutes of receiving a request for transport money, a transfer to the ambassador is completed and the ambassador is able to collect the money from an M-PESA agent and buy a bus ticket for the patient.
CCBRT is looking at methods to expand the ambassador network to locate more hard-to-reach individuals living with treatable disability such as obstetric fistulae. The possibility of using traditional birth attendants, community elders and community meetings to spread the word is also being investigated. Expansion of the ambassador network addresses lack of knowledge that medical treatment exists for these disabilities as well as overcoming the financial constraints. Many patients live in rural villages without access to the media, some are illiterate and some may need to hear the message that treatment exists more than once before deciding to access the services. CCBRT is also investigating the possibility of asking successfully treated patients to be ambassadors and find others living with obstetric fistulae. At the start of 2012 CCBRT has 144 ambassadors spread over all the regions in Tanzania. However, the density of ambassadors is low in some regions and this requires addressing.
The transportMYpatient initiative surpassed the initial targets set in 2010 and continued to see an increase (29%) in obstetric fistula referrals using the scheme in 2011. To support the ambassador network an ambassador conference was held in 2011 and early 2012 at CCBRT to update participants on progress of the transportMYpatient initiative with interactive sessions on how to find patients with treatable disability including obstetric fistulae, along with a hospital tour.
Using mobile phone technology to transfer funds represents an innovative means to overcoming a significant barrier to healthcare access for patients in developing countries.
Alison Fiander, Technical Advisor to CCBRT’s VVF service
Tom Vanneste, Deputy Disability Hospital Director, Dar es Salaam.
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2. Standage T. Mobile marvels: a special report on telecoms in emerging markets. The Economist 24 September 2009;1–14.