mHealth Meeting in Dar

Describing MEDA Tanzania’s transition to the eVoucher channel from a paper voucher for subsidized bednet distribution, never fails to interest an audience. As MEDA’s eVoucher uses a USSD platform, the simplest of feature phones, allow vouchers to be issued and redeemed by beneficiaries. It also makes it a lot easier for MEDA to track and measure trends to inform future decisions about the program.

Using ICTs and mobile phones in particular as part of health and development solutions are not new, and their applications are countless: SMS scratch codes are used to verify the authenticity of certain drugs, mobile phones are used to monitor and record data on teacher attendance etc.

Recently, a friend told me about the Tanzanian Mobile Health (mHealth) Community of Practice (COP) meeting.  I was given the green light to attend on behalf of MEDA with a colleague. The COP is a community of development, government and learning practitioners and organizations that meet regularly to discuss mHealth and eHealth projects which link health, technology and business sectors.

The COP was organized by the Ministry of Health and Social Work (MoHSW) Secretariat and included some faces familiar from a previous conference, which I was happy to receive a positive update on.

East Africa has become quite the hub for mobile and tech development, with Kenya longest in the game. In an environment with disparate needs between rural and urban, connected and non-connected, well-intentioned and well-informed, Tanzania’s success and integration of good ideas will depend on constant discussions like these to the development of national policy, coordination of efforts and reflection on successes/ challenges thus far.

Some exciting projects I got to talk to key persons about that will be an interesting addition to the Tanzanian health care system:

Health Network Programme (HNP), partnership between MoHSW & Switchboard

  • HNP allows free two-way communication through mobile phone calls and SMS messages among all registered health care workers (HCW) through a Vodacom USSD platform. HNP supports HCW develop a network to seek medical advice from experts, refer patients to other health care facilities, and rapidly communicate immediate needs without imposing the burden of cost, providing valuable resources to improve patient care especially in rural areas

iCalq (In development)

iCalq makes diagnostic devices that are paired with smartphone platforms to perform medical tests, potentially eliminating the need for certain expensive instruments, especially relevant for rural clinics.  The app uses phone functionality to perform surprisingly sophisticated processes for common medical tests to detect hCG (pregnancy), TSH concentration (thyroid conditions),  troponin i (heart injury) among others.

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