Mobile health initiative expands with global focus

By Erin McCann
03:12 PM
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Healthcare providers in some of the most underserved parts of the world are slated to receive some much needed medical support after Health eVillages announced today a new initiative that will deliver medical education via smartphone devices to clinicians in these remote areas.

This new initiative will be introduced in one of Health eVillages' largest pilot locations, the Kenya-based Kijabe Hospital, a teaching institution that each month treats some 10,000 patients who travel to the facility from all across East Africa. Kijabe Hospital regularly conducts training sessions for its medical staff of 100, providing a venue to build on medical knowledge for its various in-and outpatient services ranging from general and orthopedic surgery to neonatal and HIV care.

Donato Tramuto, founder of Health eVillages and CEO and Vice Chairman of Physicians Interactive, says the initiative began after Senator Bill Frist connected Health eVillages with Mark Newton, MD, at Vanderbilt who spends 40 weeks per year in Kenya working at Kijabe Hospital.

"We realized that, painfully, one of the challenges [Newton] was facing in that community was the reality of medical students – who were trying to get trained to be physicians or medical support personnel – that the textbooks they were using were outdated; they were 60, 70, 80 years old."

"The quantity was even more surprising," Tramuto adds, with some six medical reference books being shared among 30 students.

After Health eVillages began this medical education initiative for clinicians in Kenya, Tramuto recalls a memorable success story involving a nurse practitioner who was worried that a pregnant 15-year-old was going to deliver a baby who wasn't breathing. That morning, the nurse practitioner was able to view an educational medical video on infant resuscitation, resource that was previously never available. Later that day, when the baby was born, not breathing as expected, the nurse practitioner was able to save the newborn's life because of the education he received hours earlier.

The mother sitting adjacent to the nurse practitioner who is holding the baby he saved
by help of the medical education he received.

"It’s doing small things that can help to create big things, like saving a baby’s life," says Tramuto.

"In India – 1.2 billion population; 600 million don’t have toilets. Fifty percent don't have toilets; 75 percent have cellphones. There are more cellphones than there are toilets." With the prevalence of mobile devices worldwide in even the most impoverished and remote areas, something like this, he says, should be easy.

"Continuing medical education is critical to the practice of medicine, and Health eVillages understands the inherent challenge involved in staying current on evidence-based research and medical advancements – especially in developing regions worldwide," says Tramuto. He says using this mobile health technology “will help medical professionals build on their medical skills and knowledge to deliver better patient care."

Launched in partnership with Oakstone Publishing, a provider of non-biased multimedia continuing education materials for physicians, the program will deliver video learning tools to clinicians via Health eVillages' tablets and will serve as another continuing education tool for medical professionals to keep up with the latest clinical procedures to better serve their patients. The tablets with educational activities will include lectures from high-profile medical professionals, institutional and detailed medical knowledge from more than 40 different medical specialties.

Health eVillages, founded in partnership with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and Physicians Interactive in September 2011, provides handheld devices, such as iPod Touches or iPads, to healthcare professionals in developing countries around the world. The devices are loaded with relevant specialized medical reference content and clinical decision support tools. Health eVillages also provides the training and support for clinicians in these areas so they can provide higher quality care to their patients with the devices.

Pilot programs conducted by the nonprofit group have been started in China, Haiti, rural Louisiana and Uganda.