Whatsapp helps to demystify cancer in Tanzania
Cancer rates are soaring in Africa and people are taking note. The answer to why the disease is spreading so rapidly on the continent is not straightforward. Doctors and health workers attribute the spike to poor health education, environmental changes, high HIV rates, improved diagnostics and the fact that people are simply living longer.
WHO has recently warned that Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) are likely to kill more people in Africa than infectious disease. It set these out as a forecast by 2030. Cancer’s a major contributor.
The Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI), Tanzania’s major cancer centre, has estimated that the country’s heading for 30,000 new cancer cases a year. The diseases’s a huge public health concern.
Combating the increase in misleading cancer information is part of Tanzania’s contributing. An article in allAfrica says it includes false cancer cures claims and alarming stories on social media linking some foods and human behaviour with cancer. Experts are trying to demystify the disease by curbing this damaging information.
Radiotherapists in Tanzania say WhatsApp, the cross-platform instant messaging service for smartphones, can help to tackle the problem. In February, radiotherapists formed Saratani.info a set of WhatsApp groups to disseminate cancer awareness. Currently, there are five groups. Each one has 251 members, so 1,255 people have so far joined. Each group has five educators, including radiotherapists, doctors and nurses.
Mr Franklin Mtei, Saratani.info’s founder, and managing director of the Tanzanian Cancer Society (Tacaso), formed in 2014, leads the team of educators. They’re expected to become future cancer ambassadors. Other group members included people from the general public, the private sector, public officials, students, entrepreneurs, professionals and non-professionals.
The groups were formed by adding the WhatsApp users that the radiologists already had in their own phone books. Other people were invited through Facebook. People can join and leave any of the groups voluntarily through their Facebook Page.
A co-founder of Tacaso, Mr Ally Idris, a radiotherapist, says people's perception about cancer in Tanzania has been wrong for many years. Society’s information gap is huge. Many people believe that cancer is contagious, while others think that treatment by radiations causes more cancer.
The founders want their initiative to provide services beyond the WhatsApp groups. They plan to expand across Tanzania, targeting vulnerable people who lack information about cancer, its causes, prevention and how to access treatment. It’s an initiative that could benefit all Africa.
- 717 views
- July 05, 2017
- Lesley Dobson
Nokia launches its digital health tools
As the eHealth market expands, Nokia has expanded its contribution by launching its suite of eHealth tools. They include connected scale, blood pressure monitor, thermometer, activity tracker and Patient Care Platform (PCP) an mHealth programme for chronic condition management. An article in MobihealthNews says it’s an updated version of the Health Mate app that provided personal histories of health data, including activity, sleep and weight, to show trends, track progress, and seek improvements.
Health Mate has a coaching feature too. Nokia plans to keep building on its mHealth services. It’ll incorporate findings from collaborations with major medical institutions that develop the new devices, including Scripps Research Institute, the Mayo Clinic, the Pennsylvania University and Stanford Medicine X.
Nokia’s been testing its PCP in Europe. It integrates the Nokia’s full portfolio of devices to provide near-real time data to patients and their care teams. The goal’s to support diagnosis and management, and prevent chronic illness. The over-arching concept’s delivering better targeted care.
This could be another mHealth opportunity for Africa’s health systems. Their challenge is choosing between competing claims and impact.
- 750 views
- July 04, 2017
- Lesley Dobson
There’s a template for developing mHealth strategies
With Africa’s score on the WHO results from its global eHealth survey approaching 60%, there’s still plenty to do. A survey by Spok offers some good practices for the next steps. The start point’s that there isn’t a single definition. Instead, organisations have different interpretations. Common purposes seem to be:Align mobile objectives with organisational goalsFeed the framework for all mHealth projectsAnswer questions such as:
o How can mHealth enhance patient care
o What strategic initiatives need including in plans for mobile enablement, such as shorter ED and inpatient discharge processes
o What integrations are needed meet the larger goals of the hospital, such as easier communication between healthcare teams
o How can mHealth improve health workers’ productivity.
As mobile technology and opportunities develop, healthcare’s mHealth strategies need to move on to match. This needs regularly updated policies. US experience is that mHealth strategies are quite fluid, with organisations amending them as needed:
Shifting end users’ mobile needs
New devices available
New EHR provider capabilities
Changed strategic goals
Challenging strategy implementation
Mobility strategy not updated
A common feature’s that stated strategic goals aren’t embedded sufficiently or explicitly enough in mHealth strategic goals. Examples are:Communications between doctorsNurse to doctor communicationsCommunications between nursesCode team or rapid response team communicationsCommunication with health systems’ doctors networks and and other health professionalsManaging critical test resultsNurse call and patient monitoring alerts to mobile devicesPatient satisfaction scoresPatient throughputED and bed turnoverAlarm fatigue.
Improving on these needs a range of engaged stakeholders. They include ICT, clinical leaders, telecommunication experts, all appropriate healthcare professionals and other health workers and the organisations’ executives. Setting them up as permanent mHealth strategy teams is a priority for Africa’s health systems.
- 585 views
- June 27, 2017
- Tom Jones
mHealth’s MDCS needs better cyber-security
While mHealth’s been successful in developing countries, many initiatives fail to address security and privacy issues. Leonardo Iwaya’s at Karlstad University’s Faculty of Health, Science and Technology. His thesis, Secure and Privacy-aware Data Collection and Processing in Mobile Health Systems, starts from this perspective and describes solution.
He sets a context where mHealth often operates in a setting of no specific legislation for privacy and data protection in developing countries. Africa’s health systems exhibit equivalent limitations. His work has several components:
A comprehensive literature review of Brazil’s mHealthDesign of a security framework, SecourHealth, for Mobile Data Collection Systems (MDCS)Design of a MDCS to improve public health using geographic Information (GeoHealth)Design of Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) template for MDCSStudy of ontology-based obfuscation and anonymisation functions for health data.
These offer Africa’s health systems a route into Information security and privacy that are paramount for high quality healthcare. They also protect healthcare professionals and other workers by creating a secure and explicit working environment for their clinical and working practices.
Iwaya’s objective’s to enhance knowledge of the design of mHealth’s security and privacy technologies, especially the MDCS. These extend across data collection, reporting and replacing paper-based approaches for health surveys and surveillance. It’s a good place to start from to improve mHealth’s general and cyber-security.
- 788 views
- June 21, 2017
- Tom Jones
Hospitals need better cyber-security from their app developers
The pace of innovation in healthcare is staggering. mHealth apps are helping to push it along. Innovators are speeding apps through development processes to bring them to market as quickly as possible. It often means cyber-security’s not a priority, leaving healthcare organisations to pick up the consequences.
“There are a million different apps out there – the problem is the low barrier to entry into the healthcare market,” said Kurt Hagerman, CISO at cyber-security firm Armor Defense, in an article in Healthcare IT News.“When you look at the EHR vendors, they cannot be everything, they have to focus on a core set of services and then allow others to supplement those large, monolithic EHR systems with other apps.”
With some EHRs having a narrow focus, there’s a rush to capitalise on using mHealth to provide personal health data and advice. These factors combined are a challenge for health systems to use the latest innovations without compromising protected health information and personally-identifiable information.
The first step’s educating developers about the healthcare industry and its unique requirements. Health systems working with app developers need to be explicit from the outset about their cyber-security requirements. Hagerman says “To protect confidentiality, integrity and availability, you have to build strong authentication credentials, you have to encrypt.”
Beyond education, it’s up to health systems to be better at enforcing cyber-security, ask app developers the right questions and demand the protections that defend patient health data. “A sense of urgency is building – you cannot just build an app, there are security requirements. The industry is starting to correct this a little bit,” he added.
Healthcare providers need to construct a stronger message for developers. Better cyber-security’s crucial to protect patients’ personal data. They can’t afford to carry the risks of insecure and vulnerable mHealth.
- 867 views
- June 14, 2017
- Lesley Dobson
Can high-speed broadband improve health?
Acfee sees a huge role for eHealth as helping to achieve healthier Africans. It seems the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) has taken it further. In a long letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), AMIA says high-speed Internet access to low-income populations could enable them to benefit from mHealth interventions. Examples include disadvantaged populations accessing mHealth and participating in research studies without paying data charges.
It also proposes that FCC policies should leverage broadband-enabled solutions for specific patient populations, such as substance abusers and patients with chronic diseases. Wider and cheaper Internet access is seen as increasing mHealth use by underserved communities, improving their access to health information and care and improving clinical outcomes.
The concept builds on the FCC’s assertion that of broadband-enabled services and technologies are improving availability and accessibility and transforming healthcare. AMIA also says broadband access is, or soon will be, a social determinant of health, defined as” structural determinants and conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.” Examples are socio-economic status, education, physical environment, employment, life-style choices, clean water supplies and social support.
This paradigm shift enhances mHealth’s role in health and healthcare. For Africa’s health systems, it may mean a shift to a wide, integrated and bigger mHealth strategies with more explicit, realisable benefits.
- 570 views
- June 12, 2017
- Tom Jones
mHealth lessons may not be easy to transfer
As the volume of the mHealth initiatives across the world expand, transferring the successes offers an effective way to make use of scarce mHealth development skills. It’s a valuable concept, but “may as readily translated to a country like India as proponents of mHealth might assume.” It’s a conclusion of a study from Durham University in the UK. If it’s a challenge for India, it may prevail across Africa too.
“MHealth and the management of chronic conditions in rural areas : (sic) a note of caution from Southern India” draws from fieldwork to explored challenges facing mHealth implementation in Andhra Pradesh. It reviewed mHealth in chronic medical conditions, type 2 diabetes and depression. The research:
Identified ways people in a rural area access medical treatmentAssessed how adults use mobile phones in daily life to gauge the realistic chances of mHealth uptakeIdentifies different pathways to care for the two medical conditionsEmphasised the importance to the rural population of healthcare outside the formal health system, and provided by Registered Medical Practitioners (RMP) who are neither registered nor trainedDemonstrate the limited use of basic mobiles by most of the older adult populationExamine how promoting self-management by patients may not be as readily translated to a country like India as mHealth proponents of might assume.
These combine into significant mHealth inhibitors. An important finding’s that it can be difficult to identify a clinical partner for patients or their carers for mHealth designed to help manage chronic ill-health in rural India.
While mHealth offers an effective potential response for better public health surveillance and healthcare, a more appropriate perspective’s is its probability of success. Invariably, probability has a lower socio-economic return on investment. The study raises a note of caution for India’s rural communities, suggesting that some more ambitious hopes for mHealth may be hard to realise. Factors at play include:
Tendency diabetics to avoid the government or formal health sector as a wholeThe role of RMPs are central to such choicesDifficulties in seeking and sustaining treatment for depressionThe viability of patients managing their own healthcare to realise benefits of self-management.
Health workers often acknowledged communication problems between clinics and patients, but tend to assume it’s more straightforward to identify appropriate clinical end of the communication. The study challenges this assumption. The hypothetical self-managing individual fits well with popular western notions of self-actualisation, but may not transfer to India’s remote rural communities. Does this description fit Africa’s remoted rural communities too? The study’s cautious about generalisation across India, but does emphasise social and systemic challenges in addition to the technical features. So, while mHealth may not readily transfer across rural communities, the challenge to maximise mHealth’s health and healthcare benefits might.
- 777 views
- May 25, 2017
- Tom Jones
More mHealth strategies are in place
As mHealth expands across Africa, a report from Spok identifies an expansion of mHealth strategies. It’s improving, but there’s still plenty to do. From 2012 to 2017, healthcare organisations with mHealth strategies have increased from 34% to 65%. The Evolution of Mobile Strategies in Healthcare also identifies areas for improvement.
- 838 views
- May 18, 2017
- Tom Jones
Patients in EDs have faster treatments when lab results use mHealth
Being in ED isn’t a preferred way to spend quality time. Waiting longer than necessary makes it worse. Using mHealth can make shorter times feasible. A Canadian study in Annals of Emergency Medicine found that ER patients with chest pain spent 26 minutes less waiting to be discharged when doctors received the lab results on their smartphone. It took longer when doctors waited for results to show in EHRs. The approach, a push-alert system, sends all laboratory results simultaneously to both EHRs and an ED server. The server continuously searches for test results in the push-alert programme, such as troponin levels. When it finds them, it sends an email with patients names and test results to the most responsible doctors’ smartphones. An audible alert enables doctors to access the results as soon as they can. Only push-alert emails are sent to these phones.
A 26 minute shorter wait’s significant for patients. The time savings the difference between 68.5 minutes for doctors decisions using mHealth alerts compared to 94.3 minutes for doctors who didn’t, but used EHRs. It also means EDs can be less crowded. The study dealt only with troponin tests, but it seems a reasonable assumption that other test results send to mHealth services under the right circumstances may yield equivalent results.
These results offer significant mHealth investment opportunities for Africa’s very busy EDs. The productivity and patient gains are attractive.
- 732 views
- May 18, 2017
- Tom Jones
Bouy determines a person’s medical condition
Doctors and computer scientists in Boston and New York have developed Buoy, a free AI platform. It helps people to use their symptoms to determine their medical conditions and make better decisions. The eHealth tool began in 2014 at the Innovation Laboratory at Harvard. Buoy’s co- founder and CEO, Andrew Le says currently, medical information provided by simplistic web symptom checkers are often risky and unreliable. To overcome these limitations, Buoy leverages advanced machine learning algorithms to provide personalised and accurate analyses and diagnoses to users so they can quickly and easily have more control of their healthcare.
Bouy asks users to enter their ages, genders, and symptoms. It then asks a few questions, such as the severity of their symptoms and their durations. It uses this information to analyse against millions of medical records to generate other important, more specific questions. After two to three minutes of analysis, Buoy has an accurate and detailed understanding of users’ conditions. It will then recommend appropriate healthcare alternatives. If immediate treatment’s needed, it provides directions on how to connect with a nearby healthcare providers.
An article in eHealth news says Bouy’s been through a battery of quality control tests. The result’s that it can accurately analyse a wide range of symptoms, such as common colds, abdominal pains and how a change of running shoes has created muscular or skeletal issues.
The study tried to determine how Buoy interprets a cough compared the top five web-based symptom checkers. It examined 100 standardised cases involving 33 different diagnoses with severity ranging from life-threatening pulmonary embolisma to benign, normal cough. Prevalence was assessed too, ranging from rare histoplasmosis to common cold. Results were that Buoy’s analyses were 92% accurate as compared to WebMD at 56%, Healthline at 53%, Mayo Clinic at 38% and Isabel at 28%. Buoy has over 5,000 users and is available as an app on Apple store and directly from Buoy.
- 991 views
- May 15, 2017
- Gontse Ramela
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