MKU Leading in Telemedicine Adoption in Caring for Newborn Babies
New-born babies in Bungoma County are now assured of quality specialised care, thanks to the launch of a telemedicine application. The application is mobile phone based and has features that virtually link clinicians in the remotest areas of Bungoma County to a pool of specialised consultants. The success anticipated from this innovation may yet prove to be the game-changer in the health landscape. This may very well spell the end to the present situation where patients have to travel from upcountry to see specialists in the capital or in major towns. The gains that would accrue cannot be overemphasized. The resource-poor and most vulnerable members of society would not need to exhaust their meagre resources in travelling and consultation costs. All it would require is a nurse at the local health facility to examine the patient, key in crucial parameters and press the submit button to the specialists who would be available online. At the touch of a button or ipad screen, the specialist would relay life-saving diagnoses and prescriptions. A dream that would previously be unthinkable of receiving care from top medics would have become a reality.
MKU researchers who conceptualised this novel idea propose that the economics around this innovation tell an even bigger story. In the entire County of Bungoma, there is only one Paediatrician. This unfortunate reality is replicated in all the other Counties of Kenya. Testament to the dire shortage of specialised health providers is the recent move by the government to ship in Cuban specialist Doctors. Even with the situation as bad as it is in the country, the rural populations are the worst hit since the few specialists that we have prefer to work in the major urban centres. The potential of the innovations that MKU is implementing is that they may provide an alternative to the prohibitively high cost of training specialists that the taxpayer incurs. With just a few specialists in a location of their choice, the rural folks would receive otherwise highly inaccessible specialised services.
Followed closely by this innovation was a launch of 8 refurbished and equipped Newborn Units in Bungoma County. Dr.Jesse Gitaka, himself a Newborn care specialist and the Principal Investigator opines that this has revolutionalised newborn care in Bungoma County and elevated it from among the poorest performing to be one of the best equipped in the Country.
A parallel effort is also ongoing to provide continuous mentorship to the front line providers of newborn care. Paediatric trainers from Kenya Paediatrics Association (KPA) and MKU have partnered with the County in the provision of continuous training. Mr. Daniel Gatungu who is in charge of project implementation was quoted as saying that the mentorship have been central in building the confidence of clinicians in tackling complex cases that would previously have occasioned automatic referrals. “These referrals have been identified in our studies as causing major delays in care-seeking which has contributed to the abnormally high newborn mortality rates in this County”.
It is envisioned that these partnerships between MKU and other like-minded institutions will lead to net health benefits for the community.