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Electronic App Empowering Community Healthcare in Migori

In July 2021, a life-changing occurrence in Maurine Wauda’s home turned her disguise into motivation and a blessing to the entire community.

Maurine, a single mother of two from Migori County, narrates how the sudden demise of her daughter left her with a sad memory.

“There are some things that, at times, I may want to forget,” she narrates. “B I vividly remember my daughter, Miriam, conceiving just immediately after getting married. Afterwards, she became sickly.”

Unaware to Maurine, her daughter had an undisclosed medical condition. There was no record of her medical history. For that reason, she assumed it was the pregnancy that was making her sickly.

Anytime Maureen remembers her daughter’s last words, she finds strength in the heartfelt promise: “Mama, if I am diagnosed with cancer, I will fight until my last breath.” These words serve as her primary source of motivation, giving her the courage to tirelessly assist her community.

Maureen is a community health worker from Awendo Sub County, supported by Lwala Community Alliance. She uses a digital app referred to as the Electronic Community Health Information System (eCHIS) to deliver healthcare.

The Electronic Community Health Information System (eCHIS) is a digital platform designed to manage and organize health information at the community level. It is used to collect, store, and analyze health data related to a specific community or population.

The system is used by the community healthcare providers and public health officials to track health trends, identify areas of concern, and plan targeted interventions to improve community health outcomes.

The eCHIS system was introduced in Kenya in 2023 as part of efforts to modernize and improve healthcare services, owned and led by the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with Lwala Community Alliance, Living Goods and the CHU4UHC platform of partners. The system is powered by Medic’s Community Health Toolkit, an open-source software.

“eCHIS aims to eliminate the need for community health workers to carry heavy paper records from house to house. It also ends a paper-based system that was prone to errors and data quality issues. With eCHIS, data can be aggregated and used for timely decision-making–this can help the government identify health trends, respond to outbreaks, and allocate resources appropriately.”

Dr. Adrian Ochieng, Lwala’s Product Manager says that eCHIS system works by digitizing and centralizing community health information, allowing healthcare providers to collect, store, and analyze data on the health status of individuals and communities.

The ability of the system to bring together health information from various sources, enables healthcare providers to access patient information quickly and efficiently, leading to better-informed decision-making and more timely interventions.

Ochieng discloses that the system also facilitates the monitoring of health trends and the evaluation of health programs, allowing for evidence-based decision-making and resource allocation.

With better data, healthcare providers can identify priority areas and populations for interventions, leading to more effective healthcare delivery.

Before its introduction and rollout to be used in the healthcare systems in Kenya, there was an impedance of smooth healthcare delivery, hindered data-driven decision-making, and compromised community health outcomes.

“I used to carry my books from one house hold to another,” Maureen says. “I wrote down information about my clients, but sometimes they would get so heavy and when the weather was bad, they could get rained on, and we could lose all our records.”

But now Maureen has access to the eCHIS digital platform, which reminds her when to refer clients for essential services such as immunization and antenatal care. “It has made my job so much easier,” Maureen says.

A production about eCHIS digital platform produced for Medic by BBC Storyworks Commercial Productions highlights how community health workers in the country are using digital health apps to deliver care as Medic, a technology nonprofit, reports that global users of its tech have surpassed 130,000.

Maureen explains how the eCHIS app supports her in caring for 133 households from following up on appointments and vaccinations to monitoring expectant and new mothers.

This is of critical importance in Kenya, where maternal mortality increased by 9.7 per cent from 2017 to 2020 according to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) research.

Moreover, the research shows that community health workers when trained, supervised, supplied, and paid have immense potential to improve health service utilization, and hence health outcomes, in underserved communities.

In Migori County alone, where Maureen works, professional community health workers have helped increase immunization uptake by 15 percent and four or more antenatal care visits by 14 percent

Having seen and experienced the benefit of integrating technology into healthcare delivery, Maureen says: “I don’t want my community to be left behind. I need support to make this community healthy.”

“eCHIS helps me because all the information is stored there. So, when I go to the household, it leads me on what to do. I can provide better care,” she outlined.

Nekesa Were, Medic’s Director of Community, explains that approximately 4.5 billion people worldwide cannot access essential healthcare services.

She outlined that around the world, community health workers like Maureen are bridging these gaps to make sure families in underserved communities are looked after.

Were applauded the efforts of committed individuals like Maureen, noting that there is hope for communal health care vested in their hands.

“It’s so important to work with them when we build these digital health tools because they understand their pain points and their needs,” states Ms. Were.

Dr. Krishna Jafa, Medic CEO, adds that Maureen is emblematic of the growing number of health workers being professionalized thanks, in part, to digital advancements.

“We are delighted to see an increasing number of countries looking to strengthen their health systems by professionalizing digitally-enabled community health workers to deliver exceptional community care,” he said.

Krishna outlined that professionalized community health workers can reduce child mortality by 75 per cent and maternal mortality by 60 per cent.

“Community Health Workers deserve the right support: strong training, ongoing guidance, fair pay, and a well-coordinated healthcare system behind them,” emphasized Dr Krishana.

By Polycarp Ochieng and George Agimba

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