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How tech takes away pain in hospital admin

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Epson recently presented at the Healthcare Innovation Summit where delegates discussed the value of technology in improving healthcare. HUGH DAVIES, Business Development Manager at Epson South Africa, highlighted various tools which can support healthcare professionals.

A hospital or clinic is as much a business environment as any other type of company, with a team of administrators providing invaluable support to the professionals at the coalface of delivering the best possible healthcare.

There are numerous print, projection, scanning and disc-producing solutions that help health professionals achieve greater efficiencies in their tasks, whether it’s labeling medication clearly in a dispensary, quickly writing X-ray images to a cost-efficient CD rather than making patients wait for films to develop, or using interactive projectors to enhance the efficacy of skills development and training.

When it comes to providing support for the administration teams, technology is available to help them boost efficiency, save time, increase their effectiveness, and comply with legislative requirements around patient confidentiality and the secure storage of data.

Hugh Davies, business development manager at Epson South Africa understands the challenges facing the support teams in clinical environments, including IT and technical issues, finance processes and controls, and providing administration support to doctors, nurses and allied healthcare professionals. “Administrative staff are tasked with activities as diverse as stock control, tracking patient data and keeping it secure, and invoicing and income collection, while finance teams need quick and effective reporting mechanisms to ensure the long-term sustainability of the healthcare facility.

“Choosing the right technology to support administration processes provides clarity on costs, allows for better accuracy and helps administrators comply with the complex legislative requirements around protecting patient data, such as the Protection of Private Information Act,” Davies continues.

Protect personal data

Medical environments need to choose printing and scanning equipment that keeps confidential data protected and away from unauthorised eyes, with on-demand identification and privacy controls giving auditable access to patient data.

Keep costs under control

In a clinical environment, keeping costs under control allows for the focus to be kept on providing the best possible healthcare. Every cent counts, and procurement and finance teams need to seek out the printing solutions that offer the lowest total cost of ownership, and that can be trusted to incur predictable (rather than unexpected) costs in the future. Choosing printers that produce high-legibility, clearly colour-coded labels means that reprints are a thing of the past, while choosing devices that integrate easily with legacy systems without leading to unexpected hardware costs makes good business sense. Epson’s Replaceable Ink Pack System (RIPS) printers, for example, can print up to 75,000 pages without an ink refill – and the device gives you fair warning when it’s time to order new ink.

Make electronic records easy

While it seems there will always be a place for paperwork in the daily running of a ward and of a hospital, when the patient is discharged it makes good sense to digitise their data and store it safely. Password protected scanners and Discproducers allow administrators to scan documents and write data to discs, which can be safely stored for up to 50 years making it ideal for long term archiving.

Rural is no longer remote

Remote healthcare facilities often don’t have access to specialist insights, and time is of the essence in seeking an expert opinion to ensure the most appropriate treatment in an emergency or unusual case. However, a combination of interactive short-throw projectors and a WiFi connection in the remote location and in the specialist’s office allows voice and visual collaboration in real time, with the potential to capture notes made during the discussion and send them digitally during or immediately after the consultation for reference during treatment.

“Administrative staff seldom get the recognition for the role they play in supporting sick and unwell – but having the right equipment to play their vital role certainly makes it easier to keep their healthcare facility running efficiently, cost-effectively, and in line with all legislative requirements,” says Davies. “Installing the right equipment to do the job makes good sense, whether you’re a stock controller, a book-keeper, a radiology secretary, or the head of the hospital’s information technology team – all the people that make it possible for the medical professionals to fulfil their duties effectively.”

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Online retail gets real

After decades of experience in selling online, retailers still seek out the secret of reaching the digital consumer, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s been 23 years since the first pizza and the first bunch of flowers was sold online. One would think, after all this time, that retailers would know exactly what works, and exactly how the digital consumer thinks.

Yet, in shopping-mad South Africa, only 4% of adults regularly shop online. One could blame high data costs, low levels of tech-savviness, or lack of trust. However, that doesn’t explain why a population where more than a quarter of people have a debit or credit card and almost 40% of people use the Internet is staying away.

The new Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Visa and Platinum Seed, reveals that growth is in fact healthy, but is still coming off a low base. This year, the total sale of retail products online is expected to pass the R14-billion mark, making up 1.4% of total retail.

This figure represents 25% growth over 2017, and comes after the same rate of growth was seen in 2017. At this rate, it is clear that online retail is going mainstream, driven by aggressive marketing, and new shopping channels like mobile shopping. 

But it is equally clear that not all retailers are getting it right. According to the study, the unwillingness of business to reinvest revenue in developing their online presence is one of the main barriers to long-term success. Only one in five companies surveyed invested more than 20% of their online turnover back into their online store. Over half invested less than 10% back.

On the surface, the industry looks healthy, as a surprisingly high 71% of online retailers surveyed say they are profitable. But this brings to mind the early days of Amazon.com, in 1996, when founder Jeff Bezos was asked when it would become profitable.

He declared that it would not be profitable for at least another five years. And if it did, he said, it would be in big trouble. He meant that it was so important for long-term sustainability that Amazon reinvest all its revenues in customer systems, that it could not afford to look for short-term profits.

According to the South African study, the single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer service. A vast majority, 98% of respondents, regarded it as important. This positions customer service as the very heart of online retail. For Amazon, investment back into systems that would streamline customer service became the key to the world’s digital wallets.

In South Africa online still make up a small proportion of overall retail, but for the first time we see the promise of a broader range of businesses in terms of category, size, turnover and employee numbers. This is a sign that our local market is beginning to mature. 

Clothing and apparel is the fastest growing sector, but is also the sector with the highest turnover of businesses. It illustrates the dangers of a low barrier to entry: the survival rate of online stores in this sector is probably directly opposite to the ease of setting up an online apparel store.

A fast-growing category that was fairly low on the agenda in the past, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, has benefited from the increased online supply of vapes, juices and accessories. It also suggests that smoking bans, and the change in the legal status of marijuana during the survey, may have boosted demand. 

In the coming weeks, we can expect online retail to fall under the spotlight as never before. Black Friday, a shopping tradition imported “wholesale” from the United States, is expected to become the biggest online shopping day of the year in South Africa, as it is in the USA.

Initially, it was just a gimmick in South Africa, attempting to cash in on what was a purely American tradition of insane sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. It is followed by Cyber Monday, making the entire weekend one of major promotions and great bargains.

It has grown every year in South Africa since its first introduction about six years ago, and last year it broke into the mainstream, with numerous high profile retailers embracing it, and many consumers experiencing it for the first time. 

It is now positioned as the prime bargain day of the year for consumers, and many wait in anticipation for it, as they do in the USA. Along with Cyber Monday, it provides an excuse for retailers to go all out in their marketing, and for consumers to storm the display shelves or web pages. South African shoppers, clearly, are easily enticed by bargains.

Word of mouth around Black Friday has also grown massively in the past two years, driven by both media and shoppers who have found ridiculous bargains. As news spreads that the most ridiculous of the bargains are to be had online, even those who were reticent of digital shopping will be tempted to convert.

The Online Retail in SA 2019 report has shown over the years that, as people become more experienced in using the Internet, their propensity to shop online increases. This is part of the World Wide Worx model known as the Digital Participation Curve. The key missing factor in the Curve is that most retailers do not know how to convert that propensity into actual online shopping behaviour. Black Friday will be one of the keys to conversion.

Carry on reading to find out about the online retailers of the year.

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Reliable satellite Internet?

MzansiSat, a satellite-Internet business, aims to beam Internet connections to places in South Africa which don’t have access to cabled and mobile network infrastructure, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Stellenbosch-based MzansiSat promises to provide cheap wholesale Internet to Internet Service Providers for as little as R25 per Gigabyte. Providers who offer more expensive Internet services could benefit greatly from partnering with MzansiSat, says the company. 

“Using MzansiSat, we hope that we can carry over cost-savings benefits to the consumer,” says Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat chief operating officer.

The company, which has been spun off from StellSat, has been looking to increase its investor portfolio while it waits for spectrum approval. The additional investment will allow MzansiSat’s satellite to operate in more regions across Africa.

The MzansiSat satellite is being built by Thales Alenia Space, a French company which is also acting as technical partner to MzansiSat. In addition to building the satellite, Thales Alenia Space will also be assisting MzansiSat in coordinating the launch. The company intends to launch the satellite into the 56°E orbital slot in a geostationary orbit, which enables communication almost anywhere in Africa. The launch is expected to happen in 2022. 

The satellite will have 76 transponders, 48 of which will be Ku-band and 28 C-band. Ku-band is all about high-speed performance, while C-band deals with weather-resistance. The design intention is for customers of MzansiSat to choose between very cheap, reliable data and very fast, power-efficient data. 

C-band is an older technology, which makes bandwidth cheaper and almost never affected by rain but requires bigger dishes and slower bandwidth compared to Ku-band connections. On the other hand, Ku-band is faster, experiences less microwave interference, and requires less power to run – but is less reliable with bad weather conditions.

MzansiSat’s potential military applications are significant, due to the nature of the military being mobile and possibly in remote areas without connectivity.  Connectivity everywhere would be potentially be life-saving.

Consumers in remote areas will benefit, even though satellite is higher in latency than fibre and LTE connections. While this level of latency is high (a fifth of a second in theory), satellite connections are still adequate for browsing the Internet and watching online content. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) may see the benefits of satellite Internet before consumers do. The applications of IoT in agriculture are vast, from hydration sensors to soil nutrient testers, and can be realised with an Internet connection which is available in a remote area.

Stephanopoli says that e-learning in remote areas can also benefit from MzansiSat’s presence, as many school resources are becoming readily available online. 

“Through our network, the learning experience can be beamed into classrooms across the country to substitute or complement local resources within the South African schooling system.”

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