Platform brings specialised care for children in remote areas

Mothers in Kenya’s remote counties have been travelling for long distances seeking specialised treatment for their babies. These mothers also shoulder the burden of huge medication costs associated with paediatric treatment. This however is set to change following the launch of a new platform known as Daktari Smart.

The application by M-Pesa Foundation in collaboration with Gertrude’s Hospital seeks to reduce the number of referrals of sick children while optimising the capacity and reach of healthcare delivery systems.

Mothers will now have their children diagnosed and treated of any illness at their home county facilities.

This new application, which has been piloted in four counties of Samburu, Homabay, Baringo and Lamu, will benefit more than 32,000 children. Two more counties will also benefit from the innovation in the next phase.

The counties involved in the pilot programme were picked due to their f understaffing in regards to paediatric care.

M-Pesa Foundation chairman Michael Joseph says the platform seeks to bridge the gaps in access to healthcare in remote corners of the country.

 “Daktari Smart aims to address the delays in receiving adequate healthcare in rural and underserved areas through telemedicine. Patients who would otherwise have to spend a significant amount of time and money to travel long distances to urban areas to seek care, will now be able to receive specialist care from their local health facility,” says Joseph.

The doctor to patient ratio in the country stands at about one doctor for every 6,355 people, which compromises provision of quality healthcare. The situation is even more worryinf in terms of specialist to patient ratio.

 M-Pesa Foundation has invested more than Sh168 million in the project, while Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation will spend Sh35 million in the next three years.

“ The Daktari Smart programme will enable us to provide the much-needed specialist care to children in far flung areas, as well as develop appropriate data and information to support paediatric healthcare in the country,” said Les Baillie, the Chairman of Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation.

Daktari Smart is a kit has a range of electronic medical devices such as the Electronic Stethoscope, Vital Signs Monitor, Derma scope Camera, Ultrasound Machine, Otoscope  (examine the condition of the ear canal and eardrum) and the electrocardiogram (ECG) which is used to check the heart’s rhythm and electrical activity.

This program brings a new twist to telemedicine in the country. It allows the healthcare worker working at the local facility where the baby can easily access to place electronic medical devices on a baby to monitor vital signs while partnering with the specialist.

The specialist who, in this case works at Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital in Nairobi, is then able to assess the patient and hear the sounds real time without the interpretation from the health worker at the local facility.

The bandwidth requirement for the equipment is low, ranging from 512 Kilobytes per second (512 kbps) to two Megabytes per second (2mbs). This means that the platform can be installed in rural and underserved areas that do not have very strong internet connections.

Screens will be used for video conferencing to ramp up regular capacity building for over 300 health workers serving in the rural health facilities. About 360 social workers and community health volunteers (CHVs) in the local community who will support social mobilisation will also be trained.

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