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As we began training the healthcare providers to use mobile phones and iPads to access healthcare informa- tion, a nurse practitioner named Okari researched neona- tal resuscitation using the Skyscape software provided on an iPad. The clinic had just admitted Katherine, a patient whose unborn baby was at risk for prenatal asphyxia, a defi - cient supply of oxygen to the body. Also known as apnea, the complication can be fatal for infants when breathing slows down or stops in short episodes.
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That review, and the immediate, on-demand delivery of medical information on the device, prepared Okari for what was to come. Late that night, he performed neonatal resus- citation when Katherine went into labor and the baby was delivered not breathing. The next day, Okari, inspired by the experience and at how simple it was to put the mobile device and its information to use, led a training session on neonatal resuscitation for the rest of the nurses using the devices. Katherine was incredibly lucky to have had access to quality care and was grateful to take home a healthy child, but unfortunately her experience is different than so many in underprivileged areas with little access to current medical resources, information, infrastructure and a fully staffed facility. These stories and the life-saving power of mobile technology are the reasons that Health eVillages was established.
This was one of our earliest proof points of the impact of mobile health, especially in those regions of the world where a strong infrastructure and access to updated medi- cal references are lacking. By replacing outdated textbooks with a mobile device in even one clinic, we have seen the power of knowledge at work. The information one nurse practitioner accessed with the touch of a button has now been imparted to the entire staff, and that knowledge has been used to save lives.
By bringing mHealth – or the applications and care solu- tions supported by mobile phones, tablets and other mobile devices – to developing nations, we are building tools to sup- port and extend an overworked and understaffed healthcare infrastructure. Programs, such as TRACnet in Rwanda and our own Health eVillages, bring the opportunity to all countries – established, poor or emerging – to harness mobile com- munications for the improvement of care in their areas. The story of Okari and Katherine proves that in these countries – despite the lack of higher education and irregular power or
which was founded by two native brothers who lost their parents to AIDS. The brothers, who dreamed of bringing desperately needed healthcare home to Lwala, studied at Vanderbilt University in the United States and raised the capital needed to open the health center. Now in its fi fth year, a staff of 25 Kenyans treats more than 1,700 people each month.
c its Reaching new horizons in mHealth
Many rural and developing regions have long been suffering from lack of resources and infrastructure – electricity, little or no access to the latest in medical research and a severely underwhelming amount of trained medical staff. mHealth is addressing a real need for medical education and informa- tion, especially in regions with a high population of patients needing medical attention for everything from HIV/AIDS to local outbreaks and epidemics of diseases that are unique to their region.
Matt Linder is project coordinator, Health eVillages. For more on Health eVillages: www.rsleads.com/206ht-209
HEALTH MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY
mHealth, as a solution, represents an unprecedented opportunity for improving public health in impoverished or hard-to-reach regions, especially as nearly 70 percent of people in the developing world have a mobile subscription and the familiarity with these tools already exists. Although these programs are not a cure, they do have the ability to provide a long-term solution by being used for more than access to medical information, references and resources. In hard-to-reach regions where community data was previ- ously nonexistent, mobile devices are capturing information and providing tracking on diseases and preventive care that can be analyzed. Since chronic diseases – such as cancers, diabetes and heart disease – account for more than 60 percent of all deaths and are by far the leading cause of mortality, according to WHO, reporting and mobile information can be valuable resources for healthcare workers who are strug- gling to adequately treat ongoing medical conditions. Having up-to-date medical information available at their fi ngertips directly at the point of care empowers the clinician to better understand how to manage these conditions. The opportunity is real. It begins with funding and building programs that make life-saving changes to develop- ing communities, such as the one that saved the lives of Katherine and her baby. Pro- grams have been launched and will continue to expand, bring- ing mHealth and technology resources to both professionals and consumers. And as these programs grow along with the mHealth trend, technology will continue to advance, building a sustainable model to improve patient care in every corner of the globe.
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Internet infrastructure – physicians, nurses and practitioners can effi ciently and effectively do their jobs. In addition to staying updated on current medical con- ditions and drug dosages/treatments, these devices can be tailored to provide content on the region-specifi c conditions and diseases that can put an entire village at risk.