M-PESA Foundation and Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation have launched a telemedicine initiative dubbed Daktari Smart, in Samburu County.
The programme targets over 32,000 children in Lamu, Samburu, Homabay and Baringo counties and aims to reduce the number of referrals of sick children by allowing county health facilities to have access to specialists.
“Patients in this county have had to deal with issues of poor infrastructure, leading to late hospital arrivals and sometimes it’s a little too late. This is what Daktari Smart seeks to address. It also seeks to optimise the capacity and reach of healthcare delivery systems by easing access to healthcare services especially for children,” said Karen Basiye, Head of Sustainable Business and Social Impact, Safaricom.
According to the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board, the doctor to patient ratio in the country currently stands at about one doctor for every 6,355 people, which makes it difficult to access a qualified medical professional. This ratio increases even more when it comes to specialists. The counties participating in the programme either have one or no paediatrician at all to treat children.
The initiative will enable doctors in Samburu County to connect with their counterparts at Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital for specialist medical advice. This will reduce patient referrals, save on costs and make treatments more prompt.
M-PESA Foundation has committed over Ksh168 million towards the initiative while Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation will invest over Ksh.35 million in the next 3 years.
“Our mission as Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation is to transform communities by improving access to quality healthcare services to needy and disadvantaged children in the country. We do this by embracing innovation and technology, as well as research. 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 across the country,” said Les Baillie, the Chairman of Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation.
Additionally, Daktari Smart will also see community health volunteers, social workers and health workers in the county benefit from training via video conferencing to build their skill set and capacity.
Daktari Smart also has a kit with electronic medical devices such as the Electronic Stethoscope, Vital Signs Monitor, Derma scope Camera, Ultrasound Machine, Otoscope (used to examine the condition of the ear canal and eardrum) and the electrocardiogram (ECG) used to check the heart’s rhythm and electrical activity.
Unlike conventional video conferencing, Daktari Smart allows a healthcare worker at a local partner health facility to place electronic medical devices such as a stethoscope or vital signs monitor on the patient.
The specialist at Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital is then able to see the patient and hear their vitals in real time without interpretation from the health worker at the local facility.
The bandwidth requirement for the equipment is low, ranging from 512Kbps to 2Mbps. This means that the platform can be installed in rural and underserved areas that do not have fiber connectivity.
Screens will also be used for video conferencing to facilitate regular capacity building for over 300 health workers serving in rural health facilities; and training of 360 social workers and community health volunteers (CHVs) in the local community who will support social mobilisation.