• Apps
  • Touch Surgery: the surgical simulation app

    TouchSurgery by Kinosis was one of the first surgical simulation apps available on mobile devices. The app is changing the way surgical techniques are taught and enhancing surgical education among surgeons and non-surgeons says an article in iMedicalApps.

    Since its launch it has undergone significant upgrades, improving the look and design. New features and content has also been added.

    The app’s free and available for iPhone, iPad, and Android. Medical personnel can verify their professional status through their Doximity profile. Once an account has been created, the user has access to a variety of different surgical simulation modules. 

    One of the most exciting updates is the 3D module. It enhances the realistic feel of being in the operating room by creating a 3D surgical environment. Users can tilt and rotate their mobile device to move around the operating field. This creates a virtual reality through the mobile device that really enhances the app environment. This also affects how the user performs operations. Similar to an OR, the user may need to tilt or move the mobile device to change their perspective to perform a specific task. 

    TouchSurgery continues to use their testing feature to provide feedback and assess the understanding of the various procedures. The app allows the user to create their own sequence of events when performing a procedure. Previously, the process was very linear and did not allow for surgeon discretion. Now if the user forgets to inject local at the beginning of the procedure, they can proceed with the procedure but are penalized at the end. This allows for greater assessment of a student’s understanding of the procedure. The “My Progress” section allows for review of their success in completing the various modules and analyzing which modules may need more practice. This is a great tool for junior residents to assist their preparation and learning of a procedure before performing it in a skills lab or operating room. 

    “My Stream” has also been updated with new functionality. It’s tailored to users’ medical interests, presenting new modules and research updates in the specialty areas. Users can now share this content with colleagues. 

    African countries can benefit from this or similar tools, adding it to excising teaching methods. With mobile penetration set to reach a 100% by 2030 and the app being free, African medical students have nothing to lose and lots to gain.

  • mHealth App Developer survey shows a maturing market

    mHealth App Developer Economics 2015 is published by research2guidance, and is the largest global study on the status of mHealth app publishing and the trends for the next five years. eHNA shared an earlier post with some of its findings. The rest are summarised below. 

    53% of mHealth publishers claim their main motivation is to help others and achieve economic goals, but the altruistic philosophy’s unique in the app market Despite the hype, most mHealth publishers claim they didn’t reach their goals in 2015, which is consistent with the downloads and the generated revenue which shows the same unsatisfactory levels for most mHealth app publishers as in 2014 The difficulties in making money from mHealth has resulted in mHealth publishers testing more business models, with various business models currently in use A few companies show that mHealth could make money, with 3% of mHealth publishers generating more than US$1 million in 2014, and using a significantly different market approach compared to companies that make little money Preferences for types of mHealth apps changed compared to 2014, with diagnostic apps offering the best business potential up to 2020 Connecting apps to sensors, third party Application Programming Interfaces (API), or using platform Software Development Kit (SDK, or sometime devkit), such as Google Fit and Apple Health Kit, to import mHealth data automatically, isn’t commonly applied by mHealth app publishers Companies concentrating on fitness apps are connecting the most, whereas app entities of traditional health care companies show the most consumer hesitantancy Today’s mHealth app publishers mostly target chronically ill people, about 48% of their app portfolio In 2015, mHealth app publishers increased their focus on hospital services as potential customers Doctors, nurses and other health professionals are seen as the group most threatened by mHealth solutions, with doctor’s business models threatened through mHealth impacts such as a reduction of double examination because of patients using EHR apps, visiting less and using remote diagnostics solutions instead Follow up monitoring as part of the general treatment is seen by 60% of mHealth developers as the part of the patient and doctor engagement where mHealth apps will have the highest impact over the next five years mHealth apps promise to support behaviour change mHealth app publishers have a clear ranking of what works and what doesn’t Dashboards are the most implemented feature in 2015, by 60% of developers, followed by reminders at 49% and channels to doctors at 41% Gamification, such as badges and leaderboards, doesn’t work for mHealth App stores will remain the main distribution channel for mHealth apps until 2020 There’s hope that doctors and hospitals will become the dominant channel in the near future, but this hope constantly decreased since 2010.

    The changing market seems to indicate more scope for Africa’s health systems to increase its influence on the priorities for the mHealth market. While there’s still a place for garage developers, more conventional mHealth companies and their numerous business models seem to be more accessible for Africa’s doctors, hospitals and health ministries.


  • South Africa's new mobile app to improve quality care

    South Africa’s National Department of Health has launched a mobile app that seeks to improve primary healthcare. Health Regulations and Compliance Manager at the department, Dr Anban Pillay, said the app is an information and communication tool that can empower primary healthcare workers reduce the burden on secondary and tertiary services and strengthen the delivery of equitable and effective healthcare, an article in Africa Healthcare ITNews says.

    The app is for Primary Health Care Standard Treatment Guidelines and Essential Medicines List. It facilitates efficient, point-of-care access to the latest medicine information.

    “The availability of the clinical guidelines such as the Primary Health Care Standard Treatment Guidelines and Essential Medicines List in mobile application format is a useful tool that can help all health care professionals to better use antimicrobials in such a way as to decrease antimicrobial resistance and improve patient outcomes,” said Pillay. The department’s committed to increasing access to good quality care and improving the health system by focusing on access, equity, efficiency, quality and sustainability. The new app allows health workers to share important messages and updates to improve communication and provide information in real-time.

    The app, PHC Clinical Guide, can be downloaded from the Google play store, and is available for all categories of health care professionals, healthcare workers, managers at district, provincial and national level and community-based organisations involved in medicine use. It has been made available on most modern smart phones, including Android, Apple and Windows.

    The app features a cardiovascular risk assessment tool, which calculates a patient’s percentage risk of having a cardiovascular event such as a stroke or a heart attack in the next ten years. It also has a paediatric drug dosage calculator, which calculates the weight or age-based dosage for the most common medications on the Essential Medicines List and a medicine stock-out tool, which allows healthcare professionals to report medication shortage and stock-outs directly to the Department of Health.

    The app isn’t intended to replace entirely other clinical formats. It adds to existing tools, improving access to essential medicines and provide better patient care.  

  • mHealth App Developer survey shows a maturing market

    mHealth’s been on the move for several years, but like most trends, they lines aren’t always straight. mHealth App Developer Economics 2015 is published by research2guidance, and is the largest global study on the status of mHealth app publishing and the trends for the next five years. More than 5,000 mHealth app developers and decision makers representing almost 11,000 mHealth apps contributed to the survey. The changing mHealth market has important implications for Africa’s mHealth endeavours. The findings are voluminous, so eHNA’s posting it over three days. A summary of the first set of findings is: 

    mHealth hype is still underway, with an increasing number of newcomers to the market The mHealth market now embraces about 45,000 mHealth publishers More than three billion apps will be downloaded in 2015 from major app stores mHealth publishers are maturing in their company size and involving medical professionals A typical company has now up to 100 employees The garage company model where owners work directly on development, decreased in relevance by almost 50%, down from 15% in 2014 to 8% this year The share of corporates with more than 5,000 employees increased from 13% to 17% Almost all mHealth companies partner with a medical professional mHealth is a unique market that differs significantly from other app categories in companies’ engagement goals

    The changing market seems to indicate more scope for Africa’s health systems to increase its influence on the priorities for the mHealth market. While there’s still a place for garage developers, more conventional mHealth companies and their numerous business models seem to be more accessible for Africa’s doctors, hospitals and health ministries.


  • GiftedMom wins appsAfrica health innovation category

    Ten winners of the AppsAfrica.com Innovation Awards 2015 were announced and honoured at a Cape Town celebration of African mobile and tech ecosystem innovation. Entries were received from very diverse sectors such as entertainment, agriculture, transport and market research. Health, education and fintech were also very popular categories, all illustrating the explosive growth of Africa’s mobile first markets and tech ecosystem. The 2015 entries came from over 21 countries and the winners on the night came from South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon, Tanzania and Togo.

    The Health Innovation winner was GiftedMom. It’s a low-technology mHealth platform to help mothers and pregnant women access medical advice in remote rural communities. There’s a one-off subscription fee of less than one dollar for the android app. All subsequent messages, including alerts for vaccinations due for newborns, are free. In order to include about 17% of Cameroonian women who aren’t literate, the Gifted Mom team’s developing voice technology in four widely-spoken traditional languages.

    The organisation behind the mobile app, also called GiftedMom, is based in Cameroon. Its mission is to create a world free of maternal and infant deaths using the latest mobile technologies. They use SMS notification platforms for maternal engagement to NGOs and provide simple mobile data collection and analysis solutions to enterprises. Some of the other services the orgnaisation provides include:

    Follow-up care of pregnant women Antenatal care SMS notification Tracking children’s vaccination programmes Teen health and sex education Family planning and contraception education Outreach education campaigns Real-time monitoring using google fusion tables Mobilising community and health workers.

    GiftedMom’s another excellent example of the mHealth’s role in health and health for mothers and young children in Africa. It’s an expanding set of initiatives.

  • What are the top ten cardiology apps?

    As apps increase exponentially towards populating the world, it’s increasingly difficult to know which one to buy once you’ve decided to join the app army. If you’re looking for a cardiology app, Healthline’s identified the top ten:

    It selected them with the criteria of their potential to aid people with heart disease or those with an increased risk for developing it, user ratings, affordability, accessibility, format, functionality, and relevance to heart health. The result was: 

    Blood Pressure Companion iPhone 5 stars    Blood Pressure Monitor iPhone 4.5 stars   Cardiio iPhone 4.5 stars   IBP Blood Pressure          iPhone 4.5 stars                Android 4 stars Instant Heart Rate             Android 4 stars ASCVD Risk Estimator     iPhone 4 stars                     Android 4 stars Cardiograph iPhone 4 stars Android 4 stars Digi fit iCardio   iPhone 4 stars   Android 3 stars                   PulsePoint iPhone 4 stars Android 4 stars (SmartBP) BP Tracker iPhone 4 stars Android 4 stars

    A Healthline prevention warning comes with them. They should be used in combination with regular heart check-ups by doctors. This includes monitoring your blood pressure, heart rate, and weight and keeping to a low salt and saturated fat diet. Exercise is important too. Needless to say, packing in smoking offers a big reduction in risk.

    None of the apps are expensive. They offer a start to better monitoring for African’s facing the risk of, or already managing cardiovascular disease. If you use them, the data may help GPs and cardiologists to improve your heart’s health.

  • Aviro Health's apps support healthcare workers in Southern Africa

    Innovative African companies are helping to address some African countries’ challenges by developing solutions to solve unique African challenges. One such company is Aviro Health. Its a South African company that develops apps for healthcare practitioners to improve the quality of medical treatment. Its products include apps that help the administration of HIV/AIDS treatment, and eLearning and training platforms, for medical practitioners in the form of e-books and videos. The apps are available to healthcare professionals in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Malawi, says an article in How we made it in Africa.

    Aviro Health provides nurses with a platform to learn and expand their knowledge, while keeping up to date with the most recent guidelines for the administration of antiretroviral drugs (ARV). The app enables nurses to treat patients in ten minutes and can be used by any nurse in a primary care setting. It also provides HIV-positive patients access to a referral system and a HIV hotline. Aviro Health provides these patients with real-time feedback and guidance to healthcare practitioners for reliable care.

    The need for technological innovation presents companies with the opportunity to design products that address the massive shortages in healthcare systems across Africa. In doing so, they can provide access to information, medical help, and tools for accurate diagnosis and disease management.

  • Medic Mobile's new mHealth app supports Uganda's health workers

    Medic Mobile has built a new Android app designed for community health workers (CHW). After six months of design and development, they’re approaching the first deployment, says an article in Medic Mobile.

    The app was designed for a new wave of CHWs and integrated health systems. It provides an automated, prioritised list of upcoming tasks. In the app, CHWs are guided through their activities, such as screening for high-risk pregnancies or diagnosing and providing treatments for children. These forms include images and videos, decision support logic, and a results screen with next steps. When the CHWs perform tasks, they’re logged in their app and automatically uploaded to a central location. The CHWs then receive reports on their progress towards their goals. Remote CHWs can then to communicate with contacts and central support teams.

    Medic Mobile partnered with Living Goods on this new product. Over the past year, they worked closely with community health promoters in Uganda to identify the most important features, design and test the user experience and user interface, and configure the app for an initial deployment in Uganda.

    Medic Mobile saw the opportunity to put more powerful tools in the hands of decentralised CHWs who have unique knowledge of their community and the ability to provide care and services that reach people. The company believes it’s their job to harness the full power of the web, low-cost smartphones, and management strategies to support frontline the CHWs.

    The field test for the app in Uganda will be launching soon. Medic Mobile's tools are free and open source.

  • Une application de la sante sexuelle d'Ouganda

    Elles l’appellent elles –même « l’équipe du code Gurus » et il en est ainsi pour leur vidéo YouTube. Elles sont cinq étudiantes de l'Université de Makerere en Ouganda et ont réussi à créer avec succès un kit pour détecter les bactéries vaginales nuisibles qui causent la vaginose bactérienne (VB) et d'autres infections. Alors que les VB est assez commune, et ne constitue pas en soi une infection sexuellement transmissible (IST), elle peut être désagréable et augmente le risque de contracter une IST. Toute l’Afrique a effectué l'histoire.

    Le kit est appelé « notre santé VBKit ». Il se compose de matériel qui se connecte à une application smartphone via Bluetooth. Leur vidéo YouTube explique comment elles l'ont créée. Il est remarquablement simple, basée sur la connaissance que les bactéries vaginales saines existent dans un environnement de pH spécifique. Lorsque que cet environnement est bouleversé, les bactéries peuvent devenir pathogènes, provoquant la vaginose bactérienne (VB) et ses symptômes inconfortables y compris la douleur, des démangeaisons, des pertes inhabituelles et des odeurs désagréables.

    Le kit teste le pH d'un échantillon d'urine ou des pertes vaginales et envoie la valeur à l'application. Le pH est une échelle numérique utilisée pour spécifier l'acidité ou l'alcalinité d'une solution. L'application interprète si l'échantillon implique une quantité saine ou malsaine de bactéries vaginales. S’il y a des niveaux malsains de bactéries, l'application recommande que l'utilisatrice cherche un avis médical et indique où trouver le médecin ou la clinique la plus proche. Le développeur du logiciel, Ndagire Esther, explique comment l'équipe veut que leur invention atteigne des endroits et des personnes où il y a un besoin. «Nous prévoyons la commercialisation de notre application à travers les ONG, les cliniques et les pharmacies. Nous espérons que les ONG peuvent nous aider à atteindre les zones rurales où les femmes qui ne possèdent pas l'occasion de tester leurs bactéries seront en mesure d'utiliser notre application. » Elle aimerait aussi que les femmes soit en mesure de se tester elles-mêmes.

    Le profil de la santé de la population est important pour l'impact de VBKit comme les taux de VIH baissent en Ouganda, la santé sexuelle demeure importante. Un tiers de la population de 10 à 24 ans, et plus de bébés sont nés de mères adolescentes que de femmes adultes. Moins de 50% des personnes âgées de 20 à 24 ans ont déjà utilisé un préservatif et, selon une étude récente dans le Journal of Sexual Transmitted Infections, 88% des femmes à haut risque de contracter le VIH sont testées positives pour la VB. C’est un gros risque pour les jeunes femmes ougandaises. Une trousse d'auto-test pour la VB pourrait aider à les protéger.

    L’équipe « code Gurus » est susceptible de faire un travail plus excitant. eHNA et les femmes à travers l'Afrique seront à regarder.


    See article in english

  • Do mHealth apps make a big enough difference?

    People who prefer books to technology might agree with Northrop Frye, the Canadian literary critic. He thought that “The most technologically efficient machine that man has ever invented is the book.” He might have been right. A study and survey by NYU Langone Medical Center, gauges the extent of the USA’s love, or lack of love, affair with health apps. Led by clinical psychologist and assistant professor Paul Krebs, it found:

    58% of 1,604 adult smartphone users had downloaded one of the estimated 40,000 available health-related mobile applications 42% had downloaded five or more The average age of respondents was 40 Most had annual incomes of less than $50,000 65% said the apps had improved their health Most downloaded and used health apps are for personal fitness and nutrition 53% are to track physical activity 48% to track food consumption 47% track weight loss 34% track compliance with exercise instruction 65% equally split between men and women, reported using their apps every day Most had a strong degree of faith in health apps’ accuracy and effectiveness.

    So far so good, but there’s a downside:

    46% downloaded an app they no longer used Concerns about cost, disinterest over time, and privacy were apparent barriers to wider and more effective use of the apps 41% said they’d never pay anything for a health app 20% said they’d pay up to $1.99 23% said they’d pay between $2 and $5.99 as a maximum People most likely to use health apps are younger, more educated and have higher incomes than people who are of Hispanic ethnicity, or obese with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more.

    The study’s senior investigator and NYU Langone epidemiologist Dustin Duncan thinks that “Smartphone applications have tremendous potential to help market healthy lifestyle habits to people who may be harder to reach in other ways, especially minorities, and those with lower incomes and serious health problems.” He also thinks that more research’s needed into health apps’ and their reach into medically underserved groups to provide more knowledge about maximising their impact on overall health.

    Paul Krebs extends this to the financial and economic aspect of validating health benefits and keeping prices low. He also wants to see more emphasis on better privacy and easier data entry.

    An overall conclusion is that despite embracing mHealth apps, there are challenges to keeping users engaged, many people who might benefit are not using them at all and much more remains to be learned. If this is the same for Africa, the potential for mHealth has a long way to go before it switches away from books to mHealth.

    These will be driving questions for apps presenting at eHealthALIVE Southern Africa.