The County Government of Nakuru has rolled out a new technology that employs artificial intelligence to save expectant mothers from high healthcare costs and unnecessary visits to hospitals.
County Partners Liaison Officer, Dr. Toromo Kochei said the new innovation developed in collaboration with Kabarak University is designed to monitor and improve the health of pregnant women with a view to reducing the number of maternal health complications and deaths within the devolved unit.
Other partners in the project funded by the National Research Fund (NRF) include Technical University of Mombasa (TUK), Strathmore University, IntelliSOFT Consulting Limited and Emed Solutions Limited.
“The project features smart watches equipped with artificial intelligence and applications that will monitor blood pressure in expectant women. The gadgets will also be used by health officials to identify hypertensive disorders during pregnancies,” noted Dr. Kochei.
The County Partners Liaison Officer further observed that the devolved unit’s initiatives aimed at providing affordable and quality health care had realized significant gains as maternal mortality had declined from 488 deaths per 100,000 live births to the current 362 per 100,000 live births.
According to the latest report issued by the National Council for Population Development Nakuru is ranked 25 out of 47 counties on prevalence of maternal mortality.
In 2014 the devolved unit was ranked among the top 6 counties in the country with a high maternal death burden.
Dr. Kochei who spoke during the launch of the technology was accompanied by County Director for Administration and Planning, Dr. Benedict Osore, Dr. Mvurya Mgalla from the Technical University of Mombasa and Lead Researcher from Kabarak University Dr. Moses Thiga.
Also present were Deputy County Chief Nursing Officer, Ms Judith Abong’o, and the County ICT officer for Health, Ms Grace Wangeci.
Dr. Kochei stated that the Smart Watch Project (SWP) will be used to develop a blood pressure data collection and monitoring system for expectant mothers at out of clinic settings.
“The SWP will enable health care workers to predict the probability of development of high blood pressure and hypertension among expectant mothers.
“We will integrate the blood pressure data collection and monitoring system with the existing Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system for use for health care and data analysis and visualization,” explained the Partners Liaison Officer.
Ms Abong’o indicated that prior to the launch of the new technology the department of health and Kabarak University had conducted a research that mapped out various public facilities reporting high prevalence rates of preeclampsia and eclampsia among expectant women.
“Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure that is potentially dangerous to the organ system, most often the liver and kidneys. It usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure has been normal.
Eclampsia is a severe complication of Preeclampsia. It is a rare but serious condition where high blood pressure results in seizures during pregnancy. Eclampsia afflicts about 1 in every 200 women with preeclampsia,” explained the Deputy County Chief Nursing Officer
The smart watches are equipped with apps that monitor expectant mothers’ blood pressure on an hourly basis and issue timely alerts through an alarm system when blood pressure either drops or rises to abnormal levels. It is also fitted with a system that records retrievable data on an hourly basis.
Dr. Mgalla said the project initially involved 150 expectant mothers during the first phase of its implementation at Level 3 and Level 4 public health facilities within Nakuru County.
“The smart watches have been designed to increase surveillance, early detection and identification of women who may develop the conditions to enable early interventions. The watches will check the blood pressure of the mothers at regular intervals of between 5 minutes to 1 hour depending on set preferences. They will also keep the history of readings that can later be used by caregivers.
Available data has proven that hypertensive conditions are highest contributors of maternal deaths and complications before and after delivery,” noted Dr Mgalla.
Ms Abong’o stated that the department of Health was training its workers on compilation and analysis of data provided by the smart watch innovation towards improving hypertensive disorders during and immediately after pregnancy.
“This new technology will boost public facilities’ capacities to put in place interventions in the communities throughout the county aimed at addressing causes of maternal deaths,” stated the Deputy County Chief Nursing Officer.
By Jane Ngugi