Cape Town’s ideas worth sharing at local TEDx gathering

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

A doctor haunted by a patient’s death, a popular singer and a 10-year-old boy with a passion for ballet are part of this weekend’s TEDxCapeTown line-up at the City Hall.

TEDx is an offshoot of an annual conference “devoted to ideas worth spreading”, held in California for the last 25 years. Local versions of this conference are held throughout the world regularly.

Woodstock-based doctor Mohammed Dalwai will feature among speakers today (SATURDAY) and will present his mTriage mobile application. The latter is a means of analysing a new patient’s symptoms to assess whether they should be sent to an emergency or non-emergency unit when arriving for help.

Cape Town doctor Mohammed Dalwai was a speaker at TEDxCapeTown. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Cape Town doctor Mohammed Dalwai was a speaker at TEDxCapeTown. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

The urgency of the patient’s situation is colour-coded red, orange, yellow or green. Patients are sent to specific sections for treatment based on their needs.

Dalwai says the application is “not rocket science” as it is based on the same system that used for years. It simply takes a paper-based assessment into digital form, making data analysis easier.

“We basically digitised the triage system and made it openly accessible. It has been downloaded in 43 countries since we launched it six months ago,” says Dalwai.

“It calculates what needs to be done and suggests steps of care. It could suggest that medical staff need to check the patient’s hearth rhythm or do a pregnancy test.”

Dalwai says the digitised triage assessment is “more accurate and decreased patient’s waiting times”, especially during tough times when medical staff face pressure or exhaustion.

“It can improve the health system because it captures data that has usually been written on paper. With this data, one could look at how many red or urgent patients there are at certain times of the week, for example, and get more medical staff on duty then.”

A deeply personal motivation led Dalwai to work on this application.

“I was working on a mission with Doctors Without Borders for six months in Pakistan in 2011. During that time, one of my patients died from a completely treatable condition,” he recalls.

“If we picked up correctly what she needed she would not have had to die. I got upset about this.”

He then thought about how to “use technology to assist medical staff to do their jobs better” as “thousands of patients are incorrectly triaged” and do not get adequate medical treatment as a result.

The Stellenbosch University graduate founded a non-profit with a partner and together they have researched and developed mobile applications to assist medical professionals at work.

Dalwai says they were not keen on simply “importing technology from the developed world and try to adjust it to fit into the developing world”.

“That’s a flawed concept. We believe we should build technology in the developing world. It comes down to understanding the local needs and looking at what is needed in the developing world to use this technology,” he says.

He adds: “Sometimes the simplest ideas change the world the most. I worked on this because I don’t want to have other people make mistakes. I want to improve the healthcare system.”

Dalwai still works regularly with Doctors Without Borders and went on one of its medical missions to Afghanistan earlier this year.

He has been selected among 20 people to be part of the annual TEDFellows programme. This initiative is run from the TED headquarters in California and “helps world-changing innovators… amplify the impact of their remarkable projects and activities”. His next TED talk will be in Brazil in October.

Among the 14 other TEDxCapeTown presenters is Zolani Mahola, lead singer of local band Freshlyground.

Faahkir Bestman, a 10-year-old from Hanover Park who loves ballet, will also take to the stage. He was the Western Cape’s Lead SA youth hero for March 2014.

Other speakers include Craig Wilkinson who believes what society “really needs is not to reinvent masculinity but to rediscover it”. An entrepreneur, a sustainability specialist and technology developer will share ideas too.

The event concludes at City Hall tomorrow (SUNDAY) with workshops until 1pm.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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