Ada Health is expanding its services in East Africa with a new Swahili language version of its artificial intelligence assessment app.
The tool is pitched as a way for clinicians and patients to get more information about potential symptom causes as well as localized action steps about what to do next.
“The Swahili version of the Ada app can be accessed via smartphone, and offers support to both healthcare professionals and patients by providing immediate healthcare information and guidance. If a person falls ill, they can enter their symptoms into the mobile app,” Hila Azadzoy, managing director of Ada Health’s Global Health Initiative, wrote in an email to MobiHealthNews. “Ada will then ask a series of personalized questions, much like a doctor would, and based on their answers, Ada will provide a probabilistic assessment of what might be causing those symptoms, along with suggested next steps — this could be to go and see a pharmacist, or to make a doctor’s appointment, for example.”
Ada worked with regional stakeholders to localize the app. During the design process the Berlin-based startup teamed up with Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Tanzania and Swiss nonprofit Foundation Botnar to make the tool culturally and linguistically appropriate.
In particular the Swahili version will cater to the specific medical needs of those living in East Africa. This means providing specific information about maternal and child issues and infectious diseases such as malaria, HIV and diphtheria.
WHY IT MATTERS
This is just one of the startups looking to use health technology to tackle global access problems. Ada has gone one step further and provided a Swahili version of the technology.
“Globally, 4 billion people lack access to basic health services, but it is people in low-and-middle-income countries who are hit hardest by this challenge. East Africa is acutely affected by this issue, and many countries have fewer than one physician per 1,000 people,” Azadozy wrote to MobiHealthNews. “At the same time, East Africa also has some of the highest connectivity rates in Sub-Saharan Africa, and industries such as financial services are already experiencing technological innovation in the area. So, not only is there a demand for these kind of tools in the region, but there’s also an existing familiarity with, and infrastructure for, digital solutions, meaning such tools can really make a valuable impact.”
THE LARGER TREND
This is a has been nearly a year in the making. In October 2018 Ada announced a new global health initiative and as part of that program said that it would be working on a Swahili and Romanian language integration. At that time the organization also announced a partnership with the Gates Foundation to assess the efficacy of its AI tech parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, South America and India.
This is not the only health tech company expanding into this region. In 2016 the Rwandan government teamed up with Babylon Health on a program called Babyl Rwanda. As part of the service people in the country have access to virtual consultations with doctors and experts, as well as monitoring and diagnostic tools. The system can also enable prescription delivery and access to secure clinical records.
This partnership expanded to include an AI pilot program for triaging new cases.
ON THE RECORD
“Our vision is to increase access to healthcare for everyone, everywhere," Azadozy said. "This is part of a long-term program, and is a first step towards finding patient-centric solutions to the current global health shortage. Longer-term, we are looking at what we can do next to improve and support health services in a number of other underserved regions, including South Asia, India and West Africa. At Ada, we truly believe in the potential of technology to make an impact and improve healthcare access at scale, without compromising on medical quality. Moving forward, digital health will play a critical role in the global health ecosystem, and we feel a responsibility to play our part in this movement.”