“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead
The famous quote attributed to anthropologist Margaret Mead aptly illustrates the monumental team effort that saw the WelTel digital health platform deployed as part of Rwanda’s decisive response to the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.
Nearly two years later, WelTel is poised to play a key role in the ongoing digital transformation of Rwanda’s health care system. WelTel and the Rwandan government are working to develop a Memorandum of Understanding that will formalize the company’s local presence and integrate the WelTel Health platform with Rwanda’s national EMR and DHIS2 health data collection systems.
The move builds on WelTel’s most recent success as a tool for COVID-19 patient support, monitoring and contact tracing. Rwandan health officials recognized WelTel’s potential for use throughout the nation’s health system, said Muhammed Semakula, Senior Statistician and Health Scientific Innovation Analyst in the Rwanda Biomedical Center’s (RBC) Research Innovation and Data Science Division.
Early in the pandemic, WelTel played a key role in Rwanda’s policy focused on treating seriously ill COVID-19 patients at designated centres instead of hospitals, while diverting less serious cases and contacts to receive home-based virtual care and support through the platform.
Semakula said over 97% of Rwanda’s COVID cases were managed at home. WelTel’s user-friendly system made onboarding and training health teams fast and efficient, while daily 2-way text check-ins and updates helped patients feel connected and cared for during a stressful time.
“When people are able to respond naturally, in their own words, you get a more complete picture of how they’re doing,” he said.
The numbers tell the story. Since March 2020:
It’s a success story that began with a monumental team effort championed by Semakula and Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana, the RBC’s Director General. Their foresight in getting appropriate digital tools into the hands of their people led to Rwanda being ranked No. 6 globally on the Lowy Institute’s COVID Performance Index in January 2021. Nsanzimana noted that many Rwandans
lacked access to Internet and computers, making the use of various COVID alert apps an impossibility, and driving the need for a solution that leveraged the use of 2-way SMS and cellular networks to ensure equitable access and reach. WelTel’s long-standing relationship with Africa’s Talking brought Jack Ngari, the Rwanda Country Manager for the mobile communications provider, into the mix. Communicating 24/7 over a chat group and using video conferencing tools for virtual training, stakeholders planned and deployed the WelTel solution for Rwanda’s case-contact support and monitoring in 48 hours — before the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in Rwanda.
After years supporting HIV and maternal-child health initiatives in Rwanda, the WelTel team is honoured to have the trust of the Rwandan people which allowed them to be part of their global public health success story, said WelTel CEO Dr. Gabby Serafini.
“We look forward to expanding our collaboration in Rwanda as it reflects WelTel’s values and validates our focus on using patient-centred technology to strengthen relationships, improve communications and build trust — that’s how we achieve better health outcomes for all.”