Kenya: Hospital embraces mobile technology to boost services
By GODFREY OMBOGO(businessdaily africa):
Many businesses, including start-ups, have embraced technology in their bid to gain an edge in a competitive market. One such organisation is Jacaranda Health, a maternity hospital off Thika Road.
The hospital was established about two years ago to provide antenatal care to pregnant women. However, use of technology has set it apart among its peers and established hospitals.
According to the hospital’s operations associate Christine Osia, the hospital effectively uses mobile technology in its daily operations.
At the registration stage is the Commcare, a mobile application, which is used to obtain information about patients where details are keyed into a mobile phone and then uploaded into the hospital’s record management system. The information is then transmitted to the back office where it is stored in a database.
“Most organisations use computers to record information about their clients but we chose the mobile phone because it is relatively cheaper and easier to use,” says Ms Osia.
So instead of computers, which often require large desk space, patients will only find nurses with mobile phones at the registration desk ready to serve them.
Once a patient is registered, one is given a booklet which contains one’s details including a unique identification number, which would be used to retrieve the details in case of a follow-up visit, explains Ms Osia. The database is, however, backed up by a manual register should the system fail.
Apart from the Commcare Technology, Jacaranda Health also has what is known to its patients as Mamakiba, a scheme which enables women to prepay for their delivery bill through a mobile phone.
“Clients who come for antenatal visits can use their unique identity numbers to deposit to Mamakiba through M-Pesa or Airtel money,” says Ms Osia.
She adds that this technology helps pregnant mothers to save so as to reduce for them the burden of paying a huge bill at the time of delivery.
“Delivery costs Sh7,900 in this hospital, that means that a client can save as low as Sh27 per day through Mamakiba,” says Ms Osia.
However, she says, the system is still new and it has not been widely accepted by many patients.
“It was introduced last year and we have only managed to get 20 patients to use it because most of them are sceptical about it,” says Ms Osia. “But with thorough explanation and engagement with the patients, we have managed to demystify it.”
Catherine Wangeci, one of the patients who recently used the service says it helps to plan ahead of delivery.
“I have visited several clinics but I have never seen such a service. It helped me a lot,” said Ms Wangeci.
There is also a mobile clinic where the Commcare technology comes in handy. The clinic which was introduced immediately after the establishment of the health facility in July 2011, visits churches and schools to mobilise potential clients and get them to register with the hospital.
“Our mobile clinic locations are mainly in churches along Thika road including Githurai 44, Githurai 45, Mwiki, Kariobangi, Ruiru and Thika,” says Ms Osia.
During the visits, clients register through the Comcare system on location.
“That is one of the benefits of Comcare technology, it can send data from a remote location without an Internet connection,” she adds.
She says that the hospital uses touch screen Android mobile smartphones for faster service because they are easier to use than the normal ones. The prospective clients also receive SMSs on location of mobile clinic, tips on health, reminders of their next antenatal visits and promotions on offer.
“All they need to do is send a free SMS with the abbreviation JM followed by their names to 7288 and they will automatically be registered in our system as prospective clients and necessary information sent back to them,” she says.
The mobile technology has not been widely used by public and private hospitals. Kenyatta National Hospital, the largest referral facility in country, for instance, has only digitised its records management system for one of its department.
Late last year, East, Central and South African Health Community in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health introduced the use of mobile phone in antenatal care in Bondo District Hospital on a pilot basis before rolling it out to other parts of Africa.
Health facilities are expected to use the mobile technology to remind pregnant mothers and their spouses of the dates they are supposed to visit a clinic so as to improve antenatal care.