Telehealth in Rural Kenya

HopeCore Public Health Teams Utilize Technology to Expand Healthcare Delivery

 

Jenny Dengler, PA-C and Ari Rasori, FNP

 

 

A large portion of the Kenyan population is unable to have face-to-face consults with medical providers. Much of the care is triaged through community health workers and nurses and only those patients deemed to be in critical need of hospital services are transferred to see a medical provider.

Currently, there is a shortage of approximately 50% of the needed health care workforce to meet the needs of the population in Africa (WHO, 2016). The transfer to a larger care center is very costly to the patient as this requires lost time at work, the cost of transportation, and the cost of care.  The majority of the Kenyan population is paying out of pocket for medical care and the costs associated with healthcare will push many deeper into poverty. Healthcare in Kenya is a double-edged sword with very limited access to face-to-face medical consults and high medical cost that dramatically increase the poverty burden on the individuals.

Kenya is on the verge of a technology boom. For years, Kenya has been a leader in mobile money and other technology innovations, but the healthcare sector has been slow to adopt these useful innovations. Government and industry are placing more and more value in the technology landscape, thus more individuals will have increased access to the internet and mobile technology. Through improved technology and access to telehealth options in Kenya, the country can see a reduction in poverty, improved health and well-being, improved education, and economic growth. Telehealth enables a focus on maintaining healthy conditions, avoiding the development of non-communicable disease, and preventing the progression of chronic disease while being able to build jobs and reduce the sick time that is keeping children away from school and adults from employment.

For the past 2 years, HopeCore has partnered with MedTreks International, an educational program that provides on-site skills training and remote education on various health topics. This July, MedTreks implemented the Telehealth program at HopeCore. MedTreks aims to utilize eHealth concepts to improve patient access in Chogoria.  The MedTreks/HopeCore telehealth program will improve access to care for women and children, be economical, and provide continued educational opportunities both medically through continuing medical education and by ensuring the overall health of the children so they are able to meet their academic potential.

The goal of the telehealth program is two-fold: For HopeCore, the program will improve the quality of care offered by HopeCore to its patients and increase and provide new training opportunities for HopeCore’s staff; secondly, the telehealth program will have an impact on community members in Chogoria as it will improve access to health care, reduce lost time at work and school, improve economic growth in Chogoria, and reduce chronic diseases.

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