EIGHTY-YEAR old Hamisi Nangwalanya, a resident of Lindi, had to come to Dar es Salaam last year for treatment when his health was deteriorating. He did not know what he was suffering from so he decided to travel to the city and ask his daughter to help him consult a specialist doctor at one of the city’s reputable health facilities.
Her daughter sent him to a private hospital located at Upanga area. Since he was an elderly person, the hospital assigned a specialist doctor to handle his case. Mzee Nangwalanya and his daughter were living on the city’s outskirts and would go to the hospital on a weekly basis to consult with the physician.
He was later diagnosed with prostate cancer and had to undergo surgery. Many a time they would miss the specialist when they went to the hospital to make an appointment, something that had cost them money and time.
But, that may no longer be a trouble in the near future as science students at the Institute of Finance Management (IFM) are currently designing a mobile phone application that would serve as a platform to facilitate online arrangement of when the patient and doctor could meet.
Once they are done with its development, the app will be available for downloading and installing on a mobile phone. Ms Kauthar Suleiman and her fellow students Jessica Serapion and Joan Hoja, all are third year students pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at the IFM have come up with an idea of using the Android Application for appointment between the patient and the doctor.
“We made a decision to design a mobile application, after establishing that there was a big problem in hospital appointment, resulting in long queues causing inconveniences. In some cases the doctor may not be in…but with this application a patient doesn’t need to travel to hospital before making appointment with the doctor,” says Ms Kauther.
During the third ICT Summit held last week in the city at the IFM the students showcased the technology which was still under trial and attracted attention from the participants. The summit was sponsored by the Tanzania Standard Newspapers (TSN) Limited, the publisher of the ‘Daily News,’ ‘Sunday News, ‘Habari Leo’ and ‘Habari Leo Jumapili’.
Speaking to the ‘Daily News’ at the sideline of the summit, Kauthar explained how the application works, saying it consists of a list of specialists available at the hospital with whom the patient can make an appointment.
“The system enables the patient to check the availability of the doctor at the hospital…the doctor can also cancel the appointment,” Ms Serapion adds. A US-based consultant in Computational Science, Dr Peter Raeth, when presenting a paper during the summit commented: “If we fail to maintain a positive connection between the virtual world of computers and the physical world of humanity, we should not expect our efforts to have a positive impact on world problems or national issues.”
He noted that the ICT can provide great value to Africa especially as it combines with other domains and unites business and technical thinking. However, according to 2016 Ericsson report, only 36 per cent of Africa’ s people use phones, which is the lowest number in the world.
Dr Sam Takavarasha from the University of Fort Hare in South Africa also argued that there was a positive correlation between the ICT penetration and Human Development Index (HDI). “With analytical humility we conclude that ICT has an impact on development,” he remarked.
He stated that since there is a relationship between ICT access and development, Africa must to foster affordable access. In Tanzania, the ICT has already played a key role in health care, taking an example of Afya Mtandao (Swahili for Health Network) which was launched to unite Tanzanian health workers through the provision of a knowledge-sharing platform that also provides ICT support services for health institutions.
A major effect of this network was that doctors could refer to specialists in other parts of the country, sometimes even during an operation, through a mobile phone. The network was thus able to solve a common issue– the difficulty of transferring patients from rural hospitals to larger institutions owing to a lack of specialist expertise.
The programme also increased transparency and reduced transaction and administrative costs for healthcare providers. In many countries, ICT also allows healthcare workers to continually build their capacity by accessing educational programmes and research.
IFM students design new app for doctor, patient easy consultation KAUTHAR Suleiman (left), a computer science student at the Institute of Finance Management (IFM), explains to a summit participant how a Mobile App she and fellow students designed functions.
Looking on is Jessica Serapion. (Photo by Bernard Lugongo) Physicians in Bangladesh, for example, are provided low-cost access (US$1.5 per month) to online medical journals, while doctors in parts of Africa can use GPS-based systems to track outbreaks of various contagious diseases.
Such initiatives show that given the right policies, ICT can serve as a powerful tool for healthcare workers to expand access to affordable and quality care for millions in developing countries.
ICTs will lead to greater efficiencies in use of resources and greater efficiency in service delivery, a significant matter when the 2010 WHO World Health Report revealed that 20 to 40 per cent of all health spending was wasted due to inefficiencies.
Investment in ICT has the potential to reform health systems, extend services to underserved areas, and reduce waste and redundancy. Data from the 2011 Global Observatory for eHealth (GOe) survey showed that some 83 per cent of 112 surveyed countries identified at least one ongoing mHealth programme, and 33 per cent identified at least one telemedicine programme within their country.
Of the 31 African countries who responded to the survey, Sub-Saharan African nations were least likely to have established, institutionalized eHealth programmes, telemedicine or eLearning.
In the developed world too, ICT can serve as a catalyst of change as wealthier nations face their own health issues such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and more.
Using the services of both eHealth (health care supported by electronic processes, such as electronic health records, telemedicine and so on), and mHealth (health care supported by mobile phones such as 24/7 access to doctors, training for healthcare workers and so on), many countries have created new opportunities to effectively combat diseases and affect national health indicators.
In Sweden, for instance, the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (Salar), implemented a nationwide, 24/7 telephone advice system that connects citizens to nurses trained to quickly identify symptoms.