SME News

Digital revolution in Kenya’s healthcare system

The Clinton Health Access Initiative commonly know as ‘Chai‘ is doing wonderful work in transforming Kenya’s paper-based healthcare system to the digital format.It has been working in partnership with Strathmore University and has been working on applications using an open-source web application. It has been successful in creating 5 web-based applications that are being used in the medical field, the most prominent among them being the Automated Disease Surveillance Application.

The system has listed 14 diseases categorised as epidemics, that comes out with weekly status report on each disease and the incidences of the diseases are recorded every Tuesday from 240 hospitals.

The information which is collected by the government is used to to take action such as issuing alerts on the outbreaks of any disease or epidemic, and this has resulted in improvement of the response time.

The originally proposed cost of the system was $2 million. But students of Strathmore University did it free of cost, as part of a school project, thus saving the government millions of shillings.

Speaking about the project Chai Regional Director, Gerald Macharia said that instead of using theory to expose students to real life, they hoped the project would usher them into a real working life and help them solve problems instead of using case studies.

Though participation in the project was open to all universities, Strathmore responded first and was chosen to run the project.

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

Mr. Macharia said that the government identifies a problem for which Chai designs a solution and then it is given to the students to develop web-based solutions after which the government takes over.

Another application that was designed is used to diagnose HIV in infants. This is done through a complicated DNA-based test that enables data to be collected and made available throughout the country.

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. Anyone can hook up their computer to the system which has 20 terabyte storage space which can be upgraded.

Chai has developed another application which tests the viral load in a person. The application measures the viral presence in blood regardless of the CD4 status. These results can be sent through SMS to a mobile phone.

The most efficient application developed by Chai is Vaccine Delivery which has eased service delivery in healthcare facilities. Earlier, hospitals filled data on vaccines on an excel worksheet, but this has been replaced by an online system.

The system gives all details such as expiry date of a vaccine, batch number, and stock status. A GPS map is also available in the system which indicates the nearest depot and vaccine stock status. The system has helped solve vaccine storage and distribution problems, particularly from over-stocked centres to under-stocked ones.

The Health Commodity Management Platform (HCMP) is another application that is in use in three public health facilities in Nairobi — Eastleigh, Bahati, and Makadara.

There is another application, which the students are working on which is based on distribution of ARVs. This is a drug management system where the application analyses the data of the HIV epidemic in the country, and highlights major pockets. It also marks ARV distribution and catalogues patients’ biometric features.

Biometric is related to the measurement of physical characteristics such as DNA which is used for verifying the identity of individuals. The system will revolutionise the ARV supply chain by analysing consumption data in relation to the distribution and demand.

Open web-based applications have improved service delivery in public facilities and enhanced data storage.

Commenting on the system, Mr Macharia said that if the service was improved, delivery data would come in automatically and what was available was clean data as broken services mean broken data.

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