Innovations in Portable Medical Technology in Africa


SEATTLE — No continent bears a greater portion of the global disease burden than Africa. With 25 percent of disease concentrated in the second largest continent on the planet, Africa holds the unlucky title of having the world’s worst health record. Even more devastating than this is the severe lack of resources Africa has on disposal to combat these illnesses, only spending a mere 1 percent of the worldwide health expenditure and having a minimal 3 percent of the world’s health workers.
Mozambique for example, with a population of over 22 million, has just 548 doctors. This translates to three doctors available for every 100,000 people in need. In Ethiopia, one of Africa’s most populous nations, only one doctor exists for every 35,407 people in need. Dr. Yomi Durojaye stated in a recent article on Health Further that immediate care is largely absent or expensive in Africa and conditions are not diagnosed due to poor diagnostic tools, lack of information and knowledge.

Portable Medical Technology

The answer to the situation described above might just be portable medical technology. This technology consists of a portable, point of care, smart medical devices and other exponential technologies that are set to change the narrative of the health care systems. By extending a greater reach to more doctors and off-site specialists, ensuring accessibility to health care services, improving the ability of doctors to efficiently record patient information and saving money for businesses, portable medical technology is helping Africa make great strides in clinical advancement. The technologies making a difference include everything from mobile phones, apps and tablets to 3D printing and medical drones.

Examples of Portable Medical Technology

One clear example of portable medical technology is mTRAC, a mobile health system used by over 27,000 government health workers in Uganda for reporting on national medicine stocks. Miti Health in Kenya and mPedigree in Ghana are two other mobile applications that have aided the drug supply chain through authenticating prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs. Modern ultrasounds devices have been developed by Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania to determine the welfare of pregnant women in rural areas.

One young man by the name of Brian Turyabagye even built an intelligent jacket known as Mama-Ope, literally meaning “mother’s hope.” After the loss of his friend’s grandmother, who was misdiagnosed with malaria instead of pneumonia, Turyabagye invented a technology to help doctors more accurately detect pneumonia by measuring temperature and breathing rate.

Positive Impacts

In addition to these innovations, there is also the Clarius scanner, a cellular device that can detect any possible abnormalities in the body, the Alivecor that provides instant EKGs with immediate analysis and the Sight Diagnostic, that diagnoses malaria and offers a complete blood count (CBC) using only a few drops of blood.
This portable medical technology has introduced a new era of health care where persons in need do not have to visit a doctor or travel to a clinic in order to receive medical attention. According to Dr. Dirk Koekemoer, the founder and CEO of the medical technology innovator eMoyo, portable health care technology makes it possible to take primary health care to low-income populations, who frequently have a disproportionate burden of ill health.

With this technology, Africa’s financial boundaries and resource limitations may be overcome by the creativity of the digital age and a burning passion for change. The lack of doctors and medical staff on the continent cannot be replaced, but the new technology can provide the poorest nations in the world with tools to help citizens in need.

– Johnna Bollesan

Photo: Flickr


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