Sustainable Development Goal Targeted: Good health and well-being.
Greater health for all
Medical facilities in developing countries can be stretched thin because of large numbers of patients and very limited resources. Medical data shows that a lot of patients do not need specialist medical care at the time they present, improving this enables greater health care for those who do need it.
Increased safety and well-being
Traveling to a medical facility in a developing country is both risky and difficult. Particularly for females it leaves children without a provider or risks their safety if they travel with. There is also cultural challenges to accessing health care. Overcoming these challenges should only be considered when the medical situation warrants it.
The burden of cost
Access to health services for rural communities costs money in the form of transport and loss of opportunity cost in productive work. When health services are located at a distance a full day or several may be lost disconnecting family members.
Not accessing medical facilities within correct timeframes due to lack of knowledge or lack of access can result in accelerated ill health resulting in debilitating illness or death. This is particularly prevalent in the case of TB where limited medical resources can compound a problem.
With 80% of the Malawian population living in a rural environment, 75% of the population need to travel 2+ hours to access adequate health services. Hospital overcrowding results in ~2-4 hour wait times for consultation and is largely a result of poor health education (understanding of serious vs non-serious symptoms).
First hand research conducted by teams in Blantyre by surveying 70% of doctors in one of Blantyre’s main clinics found that:
- 30-60% of patients did not need to attend the clinic (eg. had a headache due to dehydration); and
- 20-40% of patients left their symptoms too long, creating further complications, added health care costs and potentially dire consequences.
Poor health education and poor access to health advice is the core to all of this.
Increasing trends in mobile phone penetration present an opportunity to create an effective, low cost and scalable means to provide basic health advice and to begin collecting essential data in predicting trends and making health infrastructure decisions.
Project Everest has created strategic partnerships within the College of Medicine, Malawi, the Blantyre District Health Office (and through association all public clinics within Blantyre) that allows access to all health data and testing of our own developments in the mHealth space (see definition of mHealth below). Further to this a partnership is in place with the UN and WHO to utilise commonly accepted triage methods for health in developing countries.
Development of a basic USSD (see definition below) health advice interface has been created for testing, iteration and development. A Health Research Protocol has been approved by the Malawian government for ethical access to conduct testing and collect health data on individuals.
HOW IT WORKS
This project is about bringing health care closer to home and in doing so enabling better health outcomes at a community level and an economy level through more efficient provision of services.
Within Malawi it is estimated that there are 32 ‘non-smart’ phones for every smart phone and thus this service is designed to be delivered using USSD- an accessible rule based app for ‘non-smart phones’. Having hand held access to basic medical analysis in the home provides communities the opportunity to answer the question; “Should I go to hospital?” The answer for which provides numerous social outcomes identified through the social opportunity.
This product is completely digital and therefore infinitely scalable. The implications in getting this product perfected alongside the WHO and Malawian government are that it has the potential, due to credibility, to be rolled out across sub-Saharan Africa- just under 1 billion people in desperate need of better health outcomes.
mHealth- is a general term for the use of mobile phones and other wireless technology in medical care. The most common application of mHealth is the use of mobile phones and communication devices to educate consumers about preventive health care services.
USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data)- is a Global System for Mobile(GSM) communication technology that is used to send text between a mobile phone and an application program in the network. Applications may include prepaid roaming or mobile chatting.
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