CHICAGO — Practicing medicine in under-resourced countries is no easy feat. Lack of equipment, information and other resources plague health workers in third world nations, impacting their ability to successfully treat patients.
Fortunately, organizations like The Open Medicine Project are out to create change through technological innovation. The nonprofit has developed five freely accessible mobile phone applications set to save lives and make practicing medicine in developing nations a little bit easier:
1. GeneXpert Support App – Used to detect tuberculosis (TB), GeneXpert technology is on the rise in the developing world, with nearly 4,000 instruments and 10,000 cartridges procured as of the end of 2014. This app helps ensure the procedure goes smoothly.
Between 2010 and 2013, the World Heath Organization (WHO) estimates, effective TB diagnosis and treatment saved 37 million lives. However, determining when to use GeneXpert testing or alternative screening options remains a challenge. Health workers must also interpret test results correctly and make treatment choices appropriately, a challenge in third world settings.
The GeneXpert Support App provides users with a series of understandable, easily operated decision support pathways to guide them through nucleic acid testing process. It is a useful tool for nurses and doctors who need to make quick and informed decisions in clinics and hospitals regarding patient’s healthcare. The GeneXpert Support App also has the potential to be used as a training tool, enabling more heath workers to successfully combat TB.
2. Mobile Triage App – Emergency centers can be jam packed and full of commotion, hardly a conducive environment to thoroughly investigating and diagnosing a patient. However, it is vital to these patients’ survival that they be quickly screened and prioritized, or “triaged”. The Mobile Triage App is designed to make sure this process happens quickly and correctly.
According to The Open Medicine Project, as many as one in four patients are triaged incorrectly. The South African Triage Scale (SATS), a standardized triaging system employed across 15 developing countries, can lead to miscalculations when nurses perform the algorithms to calculate illness level based on paper charts. Sometimes health workers even calculate patients’ level of illness based only on the memory of SATS process, leading to errors.
The Open Medicine Project developed its Mobile Triage App in an effort to decrease deaths related to incorrect and inefficient triage. Designed simply for ease, the app aims to keep health workers from making potentially fatal mistakes. The app allows nurses to perform the SATS in an accurate and timely manner.
3. Emergency Medicine Guidance App – It is critical for health workers have access to clinical guideline information relevant to the areas in they practice. The Emergency Medicine Guidance App is designed to provide this access.
Information, such as treatment protocols, clinical decision algorithms, health facility directory information and inter-hospital referral criteria, can otherwise be difficult and time-consuming to acquire, making it a challenge to manage patients in under-resourced health systems.
The Emergency Medicine Guidance App is continuously supplied with instructional videos and other guidelines, developed by experts from partner organizations and universities. These tutorials focus on performing medical procedures with limited resources, making them accessible and helpful to health workers in developing countries.
4. Doctors Without Borders Guidance App – Developed in collaboration with Doctors Without Borders, this app hopes to address the lack of access to treatment information frontline health workers often face in remote and dangerous regions.
Without access to connectivity or books, doctors and nurses working in the Doctors Without Borders program may regularly find themselves without guidance when diagnosing and treating patients.
The Doctors Without Borders Guidance App provides offline field medicine information. The app is regularly updated, to make sure information is helpful and current, and grants users access to clinical guidelines, drug information and details on procedures.
5. HIV Clinical Guide App – HIV, which claimed an estimated 1.2 million lives last year, remains a global challenge, particularly in third world nations. Although there is no cure, care and management of HIV infection is extremely important.
When confronted with an HIV patient, doctors must have access to a comprehensive bank of information ranging from testing to therapy, to appropriate means of monitoring patients and referring them to appropriate treatment centers.
The HIV Clinical Guide App aims to supply this information. The app provides guidelines and aids decision making for health workers treating HIV patients, also covering prevention of mother-to-child transmission and management of HIV in children and adolescents.
The Open Medicine Project’s founders, Mohammed Dalwai and Yaseen Khan, have been named 2015 Echoing Green Fellows. Khan and Dalwai will use funds from their Echoing Green fellowships to expand their organization’s efforts, targeting under-resourced communities across South Africa, India and Pakistan.
– Emma-Claire LaSaine
Sources: The Open Medicine Project, USAID, Echoing Green, World Health Organization