Global mHealth challenge: make sustainability follow success

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund
01:51 pm

An mHealth company's philanthropic project is showing great results in Kenya and Nigeria, but can that progress be self-sustaining?

That's the hope of Deborah Theobald, of Cambridge, Mass.-based Vecna Technologies, who co-founded the Vecna Cares Charitable Trust in 2004 and now serves as its executive director. Vecna Cares is now partnering with Qualcomm (through its Wireless Reach Initiative), InStrat Global Health Solutions and a number of Nigerian agencies to equip midwives with tablets to help Africa's most populous country combat its high rates of maternal and infant mortality.

Launched first in Kenya, the solution consists of a 3G-enabled tablet powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon processors and pre-loaded with Vecna's CliniPAK software. The tablet is connected wirelessly to the CliniPAK central server, usually housed in a clinic or hospital, which aggregates and synchronizes each tablet and stores all information in the cloud.

[See also: Everything you need to know about mobile ICD-10 apps.] 

"It's a real simple solution for taking data to the point of care," Theobald told mHealth News in an interview. "When you have consistent data capture (in the field) and can tie that into the medical record with the touch of a button … that's an incredible tool."

But while adoption is high and the numbers look great, Theobald said she's had to do a lot of politicking to keep the project going.

Indeed, that is a reality faced by many charitable groups looking to bring mHealth to underdeveloped nations – coordinate the agencies involved, build up their trust and confidence, deliver goods into the field, and then hope that it catches on when the initial donations end.

"We like to think we're setting up a healthcare infrastructure," Theobald said, "that will pave the way for future technologies" and support. The goal is to develop and deploy a mobile, wireless electronic medical record system in three states through Nigeria's Federal Ministry of Health, then expand the project nationwide.

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