Cellphones to improve healthcare access and quality in Africa
Making use of VMware technologies, Medic Mobile has developed a software kit to be used in almost any kind of environment, support any language, and work with or without Internet connectivity, locally or in the cloud
A software toolkit from Medic Mobile is not only improving Africans’ access to healthcare, in the remotest parts of Africa, but also the quality of that healthcare. The mobile and web tools work on the simplest of mobile technologies - a basic cell phone - enabling health workers to register pregnancies, track disease outbreaks, keep stock of medicines, and communicate about emergencies and with patients.
U.S.-based non-profit Medic Mobile is the brainchild of American Josh Nesbit and is made possible via a mobile network virtualized by VMware, a global leader in cloud infrastructure and business mobility. Currently, more than 9,000 healthcare workers, serving more than five million people in 23 developing countries are using Medic Mobile tools with tangible results.
The results pertaining to maternal and infant health provide an especially good illustration of the successful use of mobility. In Uganda, for example, infant mortality rates are falling year after year since the implementation of the technology. This is largely due to the ability of community health workers to now register pregnancies via a simple text message to the Medic Mobile system, containing the patient’s name, estimated due date, and risk factors. The system automatically creates a patient ID and sends automated reminders to patient and health worker regarding scheduled antenatal appointments. If a patient misses an appointment the system will alert the heath worker to follow up with the patient.
The Medic Mobile solution is Linux-based and runs on VMware Player. It allows the healthcare workers to collect and transmit patient information wirelessly to the central clinic using basic cell phones. The result dramatically reduces travel time and costs while improving the quality of healthcare delivery.
The idea for this game-changing technology was born from Nesbit’s experience while working at St Gabriel’s hospital in rural Malawi as a pre-med undergraduate student from Stanford University. He observed that some patients walked as far as 160km to see the hospital’s single doctor, while community health workers walked distances of up to 50km to deliver reports to the hospital by hand. At the same time it occurred to him that he was enjoying better cell phone reception in rural Malawi than he experienced back in California. The seed was planted and, with co-founder Isaac Holeman, Nesbit founded Medic Mobile.
“Our vision,” Nesbit says, “is that the things that we know save lives should be made accessible to everybody, no matter where they are, no matter how much money they make, no matter to what social group they belong. The vision is global health equity.”