Three NGOs Fighting Tuberculosis with Mobile Tech

Tuberculosis is one of the highly contagious and infectious diseases around the globe. Medical professionals regard this ailment as a highly serious condition which demands prompt medical care. As per rough estimates, this disease is believed to cause over a million deaths each year. Developing countries are the worst affected because of this malady. Developing countries generally have a poorly managed public health care system. This curtails any steps taken for diagnosing or treating this sickness. This is where the technological breakthroughs come to the aid of the healthcare systems. There are quite a lot of NGOs that have adopted mobile healthcare development technologies for increasing patients’ outreach. Modern technology has often proved to be more efficient in tackling diseases; and that too with cost-effective methods.

Tuberculosis or TB is considered one of the deadliest and contagious diseases. This disease has the propensity to easily infect people who are near. This makes it a challenge to deal with. The costs to contain this infection is very high. Many of the institutions tackling this challenge are not equipped with the necessary infrastructure to control an epidemic. The World Health Organization claims that there is a yearly deficit in funding to an extent of $2 billion. This makes it even meticulous to prevent, diagnose or treat this malaise. This sickness tends to fester in areas with a high density of population. To control the spread, antibiotic-resistant strains are becoming more popular. Some medical experts are cautious and advice against the excessive use of such strains. As per such experts, these strains have the potential to morph and become a global pandemic.

Keeping the fears aside, it is noteworthy that the incidence of TB across the world has been declining consistently. As per the Global Tuberculosis report issued by the World Health Organization in 2014, the infections pertaining to the Tuberculosis has reduced at a rate of almost 1.5% every year since 2000. This can be attributed to the extensive campaigns and efforts taken by the WHO, USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and The Global Fund.

There are many roadblocks on the way to provide better healthcare treatment like administering the necessary care in a low-resource setting or logistical issues during compliance.

As one of the primary requirements to cure the disorder, an infected patient must undergo daily antibiotics course for a period of six months. Any breaks or lapses during the treatment regimen can expose the patient to further complications. Medical experts believe the bacteria causing Tuberculosis to have the ability to develop resistance against multiple drugs. This advanced version of the sickness is termed as MDR-TB (or Multi-Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis). The MDR-TB is much more difficult to cure, and the cost involved in the treatment procedure is very high.

To overcome such dreadful events, many NGOs have turned to the aid of modern technology. A lot of innovative mobile technology is being used by such organizations for different purposes. Typically, NGOs have a small budget. Use of mobile development technology can drastically reduce costs. The mobile tech makes it easier to offer health advice to patients. Other activities like field management, the collection of data, tracking patient response to provide better diagnostics can all be done through such applications. These applications offer the dual benefits of reducing costs and support the disease prevention objective. Below is a list of three NGOs that have taken a lot of efforts with the help of mobile technology.

FHI360

FHI360 is a not for profit, an international organization which tackles a wide variety of issues. Containing an outbreak of tuberculosis and offering Medicare are some of the objectives of this organization. FHI360 has a program which focuses solely on the Multi-Drug Resistant TB. This program is called Control and Prevention of TB or CAP-TB. This program is active in countries like Myanmar, Thailand, and China. The organization uses the assistance of enlisted community volunteers to offer support to the TB patients during their treatment. This program is funded by the USAID. CAP-TB has come up with an innovative application for smartphones called as DOT sync.

DOT sync offers the functionality of maintaining logs about the patient data. Community health workers can record the details of antibiotics administered, keep a track of side effects among patients, keep a tab on infection control in the house, and manage other facets of their work. Prior to the application being developed, volunteers used to manage all this data through paper forms. Storing these forms proved very cumbersome and there were multiple incidents of the forms being lost or damaged. The application has an uplink to the cloud platform. This enables DOT sync to take backups on regular periodic intervals, along with monitoring and analyzing the data.

This application was developed using an open source software provided by the Dimagi. Dimagi, as a social enterprise is well known for building technology platforms for the underprivileged sections across the globe. This application is currently launched in Myanmar in association with the Myanmar Medical Association. The director of CAP-TB program Dr. Anh Innes has also mentioned that the same idea is being considered by the public health agencies in Thailand.

Operation ASHA

Operation ASHA is a large-scale program focused on prevention programs to curb TB. This initiative is focused on India and in Cambodia. The movement kicked off in the year 2006. After the launch, there were many logistical and administrative concerns while managing the community health workers. The program came up with a mobile application to efficiently manage its workforce. This application also tracks the data of drug administered to the patients along with the details of the patient visits. This significantly helped in using medical and organizational resources optimally.

Operation ASHA introduced a system of compliance. compliance uses a biometric signature for verifying the claims of both the volunteers as well as the patients. This technology uses a scanner that records a log only when the volunteer and the patient submit their identification simultaneously. To make matters even simpler, the identification uses the fingerprints of both the parties. The system was highly efficient and showed tremendous results. Other countries like Uganda, the Dominican Republic, and Kenya also accepted this system.
Some other set of features that the compliance application has are an automated lab result notification system and tracing of patient applications. Additionally, this application saves all of the medical on a cloud-based database.

InSTEDD

InSTEDD is an NGO based out of Silicon Valley. It develops tech tools for improving health care and TB diagnostics. Most of the patients stay in areas with very few clinics. This makes it difficult to perform diagnostics tests. The procedures were too time consuming and expensive.
InSTEDD has implemented a system which transmits the lab results through the internet over centralized databases. This allows for the possibility of real-time data monitoring. This initiative is a collaborative effort with the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) and Cepheid. InSTEDD launched its pilot project of “connected diagnostics” technology in the region of South Africa.

All these three NGOs are the front-runners in using mobile phone technology in a bid to prevent TB. Eventually, more organizations and institutions from the Healthcare sector will turn towards this low cost and effective mode of disease prevention, control, cure, and health monitoring.

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