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Huawei telemedicine solution gets experts’ nod

The solution currently piloting at Lamu can be deployed in any other remote locality within East Africa with measurable positive impact



A telemedicine solution being piloted by Huawei Technologies in Kenya, has been identified as an important priority for the East African region amongst other digital health initiatives.

The solution developed by Huawei Technologies in conjunction with Safaricom Limited, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Ministry of Health, among other stakeholders, is ready for testing in remote Lamu County and the Coastal region once the nurses return to work.

Key national and regional stakeholders attending the Regional East African Integrated Digital Health Roadmap Conference in Kampala, Uganda last week, expressed interest in the solution and hope that, if successful, similar solutions can be scaled up nationally and regionally enabling the sharing of scare medical expertise between counties and countries in the region.

Speaking at the conference organised by the East Africa Health Research Commission (EAHRC), Huawei Technologies Public Affairs Director, Adam Lane, said the telemedicine solution can allow for remote specialized consultations and medical education at Lamu County Hospital and other facilities. Doctors and nurses will be able to utilize video conferencing facilities for consultations which, Lane explained, can provide for a more efficient health system in the remote coastal region.

Even if there were enough specialists, even if there was enough funding to pay for them, and even if they are willing to live in remote areas—none of which is currently the case—it would still not be efficient having specialists based in rural areas with sparse populations, even though they also need access to such services.

“At Huawei, we have been leveraging Telemedicine among other ICT solutions to improve healthcare delivery in Lamu County. The solution currently piloting at Lamu can be deployed in any other remote locality within East Africa with measurable positive impact,” Lane said. “In the future, we hope the EAC members will be able to collaborate closely to enable the sharing of medical experts between facilities through video conferencing, lowering costs and improving care for patients across the whole region.”

In Huawei’s social economic estimates, the deployment of telemedicine solutions can afford the economy significant cost savings from reducing travel time by up to 12 hours and travel costs by US$20 per patient.

“These costs are per person and often a patient needs to go with accompanying family members and even stay overnight incurring greater costs; in fact frequently the time and financial costs are so high that half of patients who need referrals for non-emergencies are put off and do not go for their referrals,” Lane explained.

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Some of the biggest problems of healthcare systems today are unevenly distributed medical resources, costly services, and difficulty of providing training to health workers. The Huawei Telemedicine Solution makes care-at-a-distance a reality and extends the reach of quality healthcare to remote locations with remote expert consultation, remote medical education, remote monitoring, and more.

The East African Digital Health Conference brought together government officials, development partners, donors, private sector partners, and national, regional and international experts to discuss the eco-system, policies, regulations, infrastructure and costs necessary for the successful scaling up of digital technology in the EAC region.

The participants discussed the draft Regional East Africa Digital Health Roadmap which will guide the regional implementation of digital health initiative. The roadmap guided by collective vision and commitment towards harmonization of digital health information systems in Eastern Africa will: facilitate collaboration within and among countries, the private sector and donors; harmonize digital health systems in the EAC region; facilitate plans and mechanisms to operationalise the resolutions and commitments on digital health; strengthen cross

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Nestlé, US varsity unveil fully funded pediatric nutrition course



Boston University School of Medicine Pediatric Gastroenterologist Dr Carine Lenders (L) and Nestlé East Africa Managing Director Ciru Miring’u present Nestlé Post Graduate in Pediatric Nutrition grandaund Rose Wanjiku with a Certificate of Completion for having completing the seven-month pediatric training programme

Over 30 nurses and nutritionists from Kenya have successfully completed a seven-month Post Graduate Diploma Programme in Pediatric Nutrition (PGPN) course developed and offered in association with Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and supported by Nestlé Nutrition Institute.

Boston University and Nestlé Nutrition Institute launched the programme to help bridge the knowledge gap in pediatric nutrition as a means of addressing the rising cases of infant and maternal malnutrition in the country. This was with the realisation that proper nutrition in the first 1,000 days has a profound impact on the child’s ability to grow, learn and thrive and has a lasting impact on long-term health, Pediatric nutrition is a rapidly evolving area where new scientific advances are occurring at a rapid pace.

“In order to help keep healthcare professionals up-to-date on the evolving science, Nestlé provided funding to develop a dedicated global program entitled “Post Graduate Programme in Pediatric Nutrition (PGPN).” The program has been developed in partnership with MedInscribe and BUSM, a leader in medical education and research, with MedInscribe providing logistical support,” said Ciru Mirung’u, Managing Director at Nestlé East Africa.

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Over 100 healthcare professionals drawn from Kenyan public and private universities have gone through the programme boosting their ability to integrate pediatric nutrition into clinical practice to help in the fight against infant mortality and malnutrition. According to Kenya Demographic Healthy Survey 2014, infant mortality rate is 39 deaths per 1,000 live births and under-five mortality rate is 52 deaths per 1,000 live births while 26% of children under 5 are stunted (too short for age).

“It is our hope that the healthcare professionals who have successfully gone through all the modules in this programme, will apply the knowledge obtained in this course to not only help address some of these challenge but also ensure that every pregnant mother delivers a healthy baby and that the children grow healthy and strong to participate in nation building,” said Ms Miring’u.

She, further said, “this program offers a unique opportunity to strengthen healthcare professionals’ knowledge and practice in pediatric nutrition by familiarizing them with evidence-based guidelines and recommendations through a series of online learning modules, delivered in various formats including text, video and audio. The final stage of education is presented in a series of live meetings delivered in various locations worldwide.”

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Roche pioneers regional breast cancer patient journey study

The data will provide insight into the challenges of addressing the full spectrum of breast cancer patient care in sub-Saharan Africa, and help identify what solutions are needed



The Roche study aims to obtain a comprehensive two-year sample of up to 1,000 anonymised patient records across all study sites

Global biotech company, Roche, has presented the study design for the first-ever breast cancer patient journey study in sub-Saharan Africa at the African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC) congress in Kigali, Rwanda. The study aims to describe the typical breast cancer patient journey, as well as to assess resource use, cost, and other hurdles influencing patient care in public and private hospitals in Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana.

 The data will provide insight into the challenges of addressing the full spectrum of breast cancer patient care in SSA, and help identify what solutions are needed at multiple points in the patient journey. Full study data will be available in 2018.

Despite advances in management, breast cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death among women worldwide. The burden of breast cancer disproportionately affects African countries with 5-year survival rates as low as 12% in parts of Africa, compared with almost 90% in the United States, Australia and Canada. In addition, as many as 80% of patients in SSA are diagnosed with late-to-end stage disease when very little can be achieved in terms of curative treatment.

Limited resources also adversely impact access to care, resulting in sub-optimal management, high morbidity and mortality. This often places breast cancer patients and their families at risk of financial hardship. Lack of financial burden data is a major obstacle to developing policies for cancer care in lower middle-income countries.  

Study Design

 The study will assess delays to patient care, including the delays to initiating standard of care testing (mammography, MRI, ER, HER2, chest x-ray) and to receiving these test results, as well as delays to initiation of standard of care treatment (neoadjuvant chemotherapy, breast surgery, mastectomy, biologic treatment). Notably, the study will also assess direct cost to patients, including how many pay for their cancer care out of pocket and how many are unable to complete treatment for cost reasons.

The study is a retrospective chart review conducted in three public and three private hospitals in each country, including Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria. The study aims to obtain a comprehensive two-year sample of up to 1,000 anonymised patient records across all study sites. A panel of local healthcare providers will also provide qualitative information on breast cancer management to corroborate findings from quantitative analyses, and provide further contextual insights.

In sub-Saharan Africa, Roche aims to improve every step of a patient’s journey by removing barriers to access quality healthcare from diagnosis through treatment. The company develops comprehensive and sustainable programs that are tailored to the specific needs of each country. Ensuring these patients have access to innovative medicines is accomplished through partnerships with key stakeholders such as governments, who share a long-term view for investment in healthcare infrastructure.

 “We believe that patients in sub-Saharan Africa deserve the same treatment as everyone else,” said Markus Gemuend, Head, Sub-Saharan Africa, Roche. “When we work with partners with a genuine will to make a difference for patients is when real impact can happen.”

 Key progress in 2017 

 In East Africa, a partnership between Roche and the Kenya Ministry of Health includes a comprehensive access program that now supports women with access to breast cancer care. The program includes screening, state-of-the art diagnostics, healthcare infrastructure building, including the training of new oncologists and oncology nurses, and access to innovative medicine for breast cancer – all free of charge to the patient. A similar program in Sudan has also commenced.

 In French West Africa, significant progress has been made to broaden access in multiple countries. Notably, in Côte d’Ivoire, a landmark agreement with the Ministry of Health now includes access to three innovative cancer medicines with Roche and the government covering the costs of the medicines for patients. New agreements have also been signed this year in Burkina Faso and Republic of Congo. While these are in the early stages, they are important first steps for patients in these countries.

 In Nigeria, partnerships with six oncology centers of excellence across the country are now in place to facilitate access to care for breast cancer patients and increase the chances patients will start and complete treatment.

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WHO helps Kenya guard against rare disease outbreak

UN agency is supporting enhanced surveillance and lab testing, an active search for potential cases and their contacts, community engagement, and isolation and treatment units



The World Health Organisation (WHO) is helping the Kenyan Ministry of Health guard against the spread of Marburg Virus Disease from neighbouring Uganda.

Health authorities are strengthening preparedness measures in Trans Nzoia and West Pokot counties along the border with Uganda, where an outbreak was officially declared on October 19.

Although no MVD cases have been confirmed in Kenya, the Ministry of Health has set up a national task force to coordinate all rapid response activities, including WHO, the Kenya Red Cross Society, the the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Several joint teams have been deployed to conduct risk assessments and initiate contact tracing and surveillance in Trans Nzoia and West Pokot.

WHO is supporting enhanced surveillance and lab testing, an active search for potential cases and their contacts, community engagement, and isolation and treatment units.

“We can save lives if sick people are identified early. Together with the Ministry of Health, we are actively looking for suspected cases and following up on their contacts,” said Dr Rudi Eggers, WHO Representative in Kenya. “WHO staff in both Uganda and Kenya are coordinating cross border response activities including surveillance, contact tracing and active case search. This is key to breaking the chain of transmission and containing the outbreak.”

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A 73-year-old traditional healer in Trans Nzoia County tested negative for the virus on November 1, after samples were transported to the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) in Nairobi. She had come into contact with a Ugandan national with confirmed MVD who sought her out for treatment with herbal remedies.

WHO is working with the Kenyan Ministry of Health to prepare local hospitals for possible cases, ensure the safe and timely transport of lab samples, provide information to local communities, and enhance preparedness measures and cross-border coordination.

WHO has delivered 300 kits of personal protective equipment; with an additional 2,000 PPE kits on the way.


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NHIF shocker for outpatients

Beneficiaries will now be allowed only four outpatient visits per year to a hospital as the health insurer shifts to a new business model



In the new model, health facilities will now be paid claims depending on the number of NHIF beneficiaries that have been treated.

National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) beneficiaries will now be allowed only four outpatient visits per year to a hospital as the health insurer shifts to a new business model.

Confirming the major change in how the fund pays members claims for outpatient care, NHIF Chief Executive Officer Geoffrey Mwangi said the limitation of hospital visits was necessary to deal with the challenges of the older model.

“The capitation method had various challenges such as locking members to particular facilities irrespective of the quality of the service. There were also instances where members could not access care because the facilities they were registered in did not operate 24 hours,” said Mwangi.

In the new model, health facilities will now be paid claims depending on the number of NHIF beneficiaries that have been treated. And members are allowed to access outpatient services from any health facility accredited by the fund.

“The changes allow for portability of benefits where beneficiaries can access primary care at any NHIF facility countrywide,” he said. Mwangi did not give the specific rate the fund will be paying per visit but said there will be different rates depending on the facilities and that capping the number of visits would control fraud and misuse of benefits.

“There are some facilities that will be paid Ksh 1,500 per visit by our members and while others will be paid Ksh 4,000,” he said. In the older model, the fund was paying a flat monthly fee depending on the number of members registered for outpatient care at a facility in a method technically known as capitation.

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The new model has the backing of both private and mission health facilities. Christian Health Association of Kenya chairman Samuel Mwenda said the new model eliminated the challenges that had been raised by members.

“One of the challenges was what happened to a member if he or she moved from one location where he was registered at facility for outpatient care. This new model has taken care of that problem,” said Mwenda.

Kenya Association of Private Hospitals Chairman Abdi Mohamed said the new model would also help improve the quality of care offered by the health facilities.

“Members will only go to facilities that offer quality care. It means that they have to improve the quality of their services,” said Mohammed. KAPH Secretary, Dr Timothy Olweny, said the biggest benefit for members is that they will no longer be locked in to facility.

Story credit: People Daily

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