Using technology to improve medical care in Africa

In the last three years Sub-Saharan Africa covered around 14.59% of the world population.[1] Until now there is approximately one doctor per 1,000 population in Sub-Saharan Africa.[2] And even though there are not so many doctors available, the infrastructure like the national roads are in such a bad state that people cannot reach out for medical help when they live in rural areas where doctors are not available. Previously and still in some areas today, people have no form of communication available to get in touch with medical professionals for advice. With this result comes some of the worst healthcare situations in the world which often leads to death.

Digital Age in Sub-Saharan Africa

Due to the digital age, the poor healthcare situations have changed a bit in some countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Previous barriers which made getting in touch with medical experts for advice difficult, are now improving little by little due to the increase of technology used in African countries for healthcare purposes. The arrival of the internet and internet-enabled services in Sub-Saharan Africa have made it possible for some countries to provide healthcare services to people through cell phones as a communication method, since face to face medical advice is often not possible due to long distances and poor infrastructure. With this advanced healthcare service, trained doctors and nurses are also needed for both medical advice as well as good skills in managing digital devices.

mTRAC in Uganda

Nowadays, almost 27,000 medical staff working for the government make use of mTRAC. This is a health system in Uganda which can be used on a mobile phone to report on medicine stocks across the country.[3] Previously, people travelled to medical centres from far on dirt roads and in poor health conditions to only find out upon arrival that the medicine they need are not available. But with mTRAC this problem is resolved easily.

Novartis Foundation in Ghana

Novartis is a charitable organisation which helps improving the health situation in underprivileged communities around Ghana. The telemedicine program enables medical expertise from other parts of the world to connect to local health workers in Ghana via phone calls in order to assist them with medical issues and emergencies and to advise them regarding a patient’s health problems at all hours of the day. This type of technology allows medical staff to stay present in their local medical centre and at the same time get international assistance and training.[4]

MomConnect South Africa

The national department of health in South Africa introduced MomConnect in August 2014. This is an initiative which supports pregnant women, mothers and medical staff all over South Africa when it is needed. The support is given through maternal and child health services via phone calls or SMS. The service is offered in all 11 official languages of South Africa and are free of charge to all users. Since some parts of South Africa do not offer the infrastructure and medical facilities in order for mothers or pregnant women to get medical support and most people own a cell phone or have access to a cell phone these days, MomConnect offers its services via this technology method.[5] In 2018 around 2 million pregnant women and new mothers have made use of MomConnect.[6]

 

BBC Ebola Service via WhatsApp System

When West Africa got hit by the Ebola crisis in 2014, many were unprepared for such a fatal decease. Support was offered from all corners of the world. One of which was the BBC support via the communication platform WhatsApp. Through WhatsApp, BBC shared information on Ebola and personal health support to people in affected areas. They provided people with audio and text message alerts and images in order for them to stay up to date with the latest public health information. This way people could stay aware and help prevent the spread of Ebola in their areas.[7]

Rwanda Drone Technology for Blood Supplies

Because of the corporation between Rwanda’s government and a Californian robotics company called Zipline Inc, the delivery of blood supplies through drone technology in Rwanda is made possible. Zipline Inc’s partners consist of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gavi Alliance, the UPS Foundation and Pfizer.[8] The drone delivery service has made a big improvement in the health sector by saving lives of those in need of blood all over the country. Because of poor infrastructure and long distances throughout the country, the Zipline Inc drone has made it possible to deliver blood in just 15 minutes whereas is sometimes took 4 hours to deliver blood supplies.[9] Fortunately many citizens of Rwanda are pleased to donate flood without compensation. Which means the whole country works well together in order to make the drone blood supply system function well.

 

Clarius Scanner

The Clarius scanner is a device used to scan different parts of the body just like other medical scanner devices would do in hospitals or clinics. The scanned picture will appear on your mobile phone which is connected to the scanner. This means that anybody can take a scan of their body anywhere in the world. This makes it possible for people living in rural areas to also have scans and ultra sounds during pregnancy or when feeling sick.[10]

Keywords: Technology, Sub-Saharan Africa, Infrastructure, Medical Advice, Digital Devices

 

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Sources:

[1] [3] Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, Founder and Chairman of the Advisory Board, Quantum Global Group, 19 Oct 2017 Retrieveable: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/10/digital-paths-for-better-healthcare-in-sub-saharan-africa/

[2] KINGSLEY IGHOBOR, Africa Renewal, Diagnosing Africa’s medical brain drain, December 2016 – March 2017.

[4] Website of Novartis Foundation: https://www.novartisfoundation.org/our-work/reimagining-healthcare-through-digital-technology/ghana-telemedicine

[5] Dept. of heath South Africa Website: http://www.health.gov.za/index.php/mom-connect

[6] Peter M Small, Stat News, Smartphones should fuel the next generation of tuberculosis care, 23 October 2018. Retrieved 18 February 2020. https://www.statnews.com/2018/10/23/smartphones-next-generation-tuberculosis-care/

[7] BBC News, BBC launches WhatsApp Ebola service, 16 October 2014. Retrieved 10 February 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-29573964

[8] Dr Yomi Durojaye, Changing The Face Of Healthcare In Africa: Leveraging Exponential Tools To Demonetize And Democratize Quality Healthcare, Health Tech, Patient Advocacy, Nigeria Africa, May 4, 2018. https://www.healthfurther.com/the-future-of-health/2018/05/04/changing-the-face-of-healthcare-in-africa-leveraging-exponential-tools-to-demonetize-and-democratize-quality-healthcare-icpadvo/

[9] Website World health Organisation: Retrieved 18.02.2020 https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/drones-take-rwandas-national-blood-service-to-new-heights

[10] Dr Yomi Durojaye, Changing The Face Of Healthcare In Africa: Leveraging Exponential Tools To Demonetize And Democratize Quality Healthcare, Health Tech, Patient Advocacy, Nigeria Africa, May 4, 2018. https://www.healthfurther.com/the-future-of-health/2018/05/04/changing-the-face-of-healthcare-in-africa-leveraging-exponential-tools-to-demonetize-and-democratize-quality-healthcare-icpadvo/

Picture Source:

Zipline Inc Drone: https://qz.com/africa/809576/zipline-has-launched-the-worlds-first-commercial-drone-delivery-service-to-supply-blood-in-rwanda/

Clarius Scanner: https://www.medicalexpo.com/prod/clarius-mobile-health/product-112218-765099.html

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