Digital revolution takes root in Kenya’s healthcare system

By EVELYN SITUMA
Posted Wednesday, November 21 2012 at 18:32
IN SUMMARY

Using an open-source web application, the initiative has been working on applications since last year in partnership with Strathmore University. CHAI has been able to create five web-based applications currently in use in the medical field. Open web-based applications have improved service delivery in public facilities and enhanced data storage.

The Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) has been working on transforming Kenya’s paper-based healthcare system to the digital format.

Using an open-source web application, the initiative has been working on applications since last year in partnership with Strathmore University.

Chai has been able to create five web-based applications currently in use in the medical field. The most publicised of them is the Automated Disease Surveillance Application.

The system details incidences of 14 diseases categorised as epidemics, giving a country weekly status report on each. The incidences of the diseases are recorded every Tuesday from 240 hospitals.

The information collected is used by the government to formulate policy, or take action such as issuing alerts on outbreaks of the diseases, thus improving response time.

The initial proposed cost of the system was $2 million. But Strathmore University students did it at no cost, as part of a school project, saving the government millions of shillings.

“Instead of using theory to expose students to real life, we thought the project would usher them into a real working life and help them solve problems other than use case studies,” said CHAI regional director Gerald Macharia.

Participation in the project was open to all universities, but Strathmore responded first and was picked to run the project.

Each year, Strathmore provides nine of its best students to design an ICT solution in collaboration with CHAI.

“The government identifies the problem, CHAI breaks it down and designs a solution. We then take it to students to develop web-based solutions. After this, we leave it for the government to roll it out,” said Mr Macharia.

Another application that the organisation has designed diagnoses HIV in infants. This is achieved through a complicated DNA-based test that enables data to be collected and made available nationwide.

The system has won two international awards through HP, an implementing organisation which hosts the application. HP provides a data centre stationed at Afya House in Nairobi.

This allows anyone to hook up their computer to the system. It has 20 terabyte storage space which can be upgraded.

Another application developed by CHAI tests the viral load in a person. The application measures the viral presence in blood regardless of the CD4 status. One can get the results through a mobile phone SMS.

Vaccine Delivery is the most efficient of the applications developed by Chai. It has eased service delivery in healthcare facilities.

Previously, hospitals filled data on vaccines on an excel worksheet, but currently all data on vaccines has an online system.

The system quotes expiry date of a vaccine, batch number, and stock status. It also has a GPS map which indicates the nearest depot and vaccine stock status.

The development has helped solve vaccine storage hurdles and distribution problems, particularly from over-stocked centres to underserved ones.

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