News / Africa

Cell Phones Come to Rescue of Africa's Health Sector

Patients in Liberia can now benefit from better connected doctors.
Patients in Liberia can now benefit from better connected doctors.
TEXT SIZE - +

Several U.S. non profit organizations are releasing new products to use in Africa to help governments and health practitioners improve their health systems with mobile phone technology.

The Washington-based Medic Mobile non profit recently released a video promoting a test version of one of its new products called PatientView.  Its aim is to give hospitals in rural African areas the ability to manage patient information through cell phones.

At a recent conference in Washington, an executive with Medic Mobile's sister organization Frontline SMS, Sean McDonald, talked about another project in the testing stage, which would turn camera enabled cell phones into diagnostic tools.

"What they are doing with these phones is they are taking pictures of people and then running them through databases to give completely automated diagnostics so there is hospital quality care in places where all you need is a camera with a phone and a signal," he said.

Some of the cell phone applications being worked on would allow for malaria testing of photographed blood samples within 10 seconds.

Eric Woods, the founder of a non profit organization called Switchboard, is partnering with cell phone communication providers in Ghana and Liberia to let doctors use the phones they already have for free doctor to doctor calls and text messaging.

"We are piggybacking on what doctors are already using. But we are just giving them new ways to collaborate with one another," Woods said.

Woods explains doctors can also access a free doctor directory as part of a service called MDNet.

In turn, the communication companies are getting new clients, and now want to expand the service to nurses as well.  Woods says a new product in Ghana called Ensembl, expected later this year, will create a web platform where every doctor can instantly receive and send messages.

"So essentially, someone at the Ministry of Health or the Ghana Health Services could log onto a web interface if there is a disease outbreak across the country, in a specific region or district, they can target those particular physicians and send out an SMS message that says there is a measles outbreak in your area please make sure you have the Vitamin A, the antibiotics on hand to be able to handle this outbreak," he said.

A former regional director for the International Development Research Center in east and southern Africa, Connie Freeman, says such innovations seem to be following the right path.

"I am delighted that these organizations are out and essentially trying to adapt the technologies to the local situation rather than the reverse.  My experience in the field is that everybody always wanted us to take on the latest technology, including in my office and included for me, and it did not work.  It did not work because of bandwidth, because of electricity outages. But Africans are very creative in the use of technology.  They are very creative in finding solutions because they have had to find solutions over time. They do not have as many tools," Freeman said.

Woods from the San Francisco-based non-profit Switchboard says he noticed relationships are key to get a program going.

"Government, the health care workers, I think that is the real critical piece, so just make sure you understand what are the country's priorities. I think we want to make sure we are supporting the work that the Ministry of Health has slated as its top priorities, make sure you are supporting the work that needs to get done and then just really involving them with the whole process," Woods said.

Woods says he hopes to expand his programs to other African countries as well.  Other cell phone uses in the health field developed by non profits which have become more commonplace in Africa include receiving a text message for a doctor's appointment, text messages for blood results, and messages to remind patients to take their medication.

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid