The Technology Available in Phones and Drones is Transforming Health Care
How mobile phones and drones affects delivery of health care services.
In most developing countries in the world, providing basic health care for people in need is in most cases, a challenging task. Furthermore, test or medical screening, that are used for easily treatable diseases that are preventable, and usually too expensive and people cannot afford them.
However, not everything is so dark as the development of technology allows the development of softwares and apps, and ways of providing proper health care with far lesser costs.
Disease Detecting Algorithms
The biggest health problem in Africa are not infectious diseases anymore, as they are being overtaken fast by infamous illnesses such as cancer, and some of the African countries, don’t even have more than just one pathologist per 1 million people.
David Sengeh, a robotics engineer from Sierra Leone, at IBM Africa, is working with his team on developing AI algorithms that will be able to predict cancer development and progression.
This software, will be used to discover which patients have a high-risk of cervical cancer development, by using a database of images, to detect cervix color changes which indicate the possibility of cancer appearing. Up until now, every year, this dreadful illness, which is actually treatable if discovered in time, has taken the lives of 60 000 African women in Africa. Hopefully, this program will help in drastically minimizing this number if not completely erasing it.
On the other side of the planet, ion MIT, Pratik Shah is dealing with a similar issue, and is working on a revolutionary system that will, instead of using expensive CT scans or MRI, use the smartphone cameras to identify oral cancer biomarkers. Unlike the Artificial Intelligence programs, which need thousands of images to do this, his program only needs 50 to successfully identify this horrible disease.
Such an approach to the issue, will hugely reduce the needed data, and allow the doctors to diagnose the patients by only using a smartphone and an App.
Mobile Hearing and “Eye-Phones”
Across the planet, more than 1 billion people suffer from hearing loss. But, the most disturbing fact is that half of these cases, were actually preventable, but not discovered in time.
According to Susan Emmett, an American Ear Surgeon, most of the people who suffered from hearing loss, live in countries where the income level is middle and low. In such countries, standard hearing tests are a expensive for most people. For example, in Malawi, there are only two ear surgeons in the entire country, and just 10 audiologists.
Currently, the American Ear Surgeon is working on the mobile screening technology that was developed in South Africa, and she is testing it Alaskan rural communities. This system has replaced the need for a soundproof room, the expensive equipment, and the need for an audiologist. This new tech, uses headphones that isolate the noise and an adaptor that can be attached on a smartphone so that the patient’s ear can be examined, and, what’s most important, it costs about 10 times less than the standard equipment and the process overall.
Another example of smartphone technology being used for improved health care, is an App that had been developed by Andrew Bastawrous, an eye surgeon, who created an App that uses a cheap clip-on gadget, to test the sight of the patient by taking the images of the back of the eye.
Drone blood delivery
Just a decade ago, the only drones that were available and capable of reaching long distances and carrying cargo, were advanced military drones. However, in the last few years, the drone technology had become widely available for civilians as well, and that led to manufacturing of all sorts of commercial drones.
For example, with harsh desert and unreachable rain forest, and extremes of drought and rain seasons Africa is known as the world’s worst infrastructure endowment, and providing health care and transporting medical supplies is nearly impossible. But, this is one of the leading parts of the world, as far as the drone implementation in various fields is concerned.
Last year, in Rwanda, a drone implementing system had been launched. This system uses drones to transport blood from a central distribution center to hospitals. The boxed packs of blood, when the designated destination is reached, are dropped by the drones, and safely land on the ground thanks to the use of paper parachutes. So far, this system had saved many lives outside the Rwanda’s capital city Kigali, and delivers 20% of this city’s entire blood supply.
One specific case where this system saved a life is when a 24-year old woman started severely bleeding out after the childbirth. In order to provide her enough blood for the transfusion, several drone flights were necessary, and the amount of the blood transported in that case was actually more than one human body contains.
Emergency Medical Supplies Drone Delivery
Drones can also be used for more than blood transport, as they can also deliver emergency medical supplies to remote or hard to reach areas.
For example, in Tanzania, the state has teamed up with a company named Zipline, a U.S. logistics company (the same company that is working on the blood delivering drone system in Rwanda) to launch a serious drone delivery service, which would be in charge of delivering emergency medical supplies.
With the beginning of the 2018, this country will start using drones to make as much as 2 000 daily deliveries, to over 1 000 health facilities. The system will be especially useful in unexpected demanding situations, or when there’s bad weather, or for critical orders that are small.
This drone delivery system will significantly improve the health care system in this part of Africa, and help save numerous lives, and hopefully, serve as a great example to the rest of the world, how useful drone technology can actually be.