Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation, Kenya, in partnership with M-PESA Foundation, Safaricom PLC, Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital and the County Governments of Samburu, Baringo, Lamu and Homabay, launched the Daktari Smart telemedicine program on Wednesday 17th November 2021. Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation, with support from the M-PESA Foundation, is working with the above partners to improve access to quality specialist care for children in these counties in Kenya by leveraging the use of technology.

The Daktari Smart program will help reduce the number of referrals of sick children and optimize the capacity and reach of healthcare delivery systems by allowing level IV and V hospitals to have access to specialists. During the first phase, the project will provide free specialist care and treatment to 32,400 children in Samburu, Baringo, Lamu and Homabay counties and their environs via telemedicine. In addition, the telemedicine platform will be used to improve the capacity of 300 health workers to correctly diagnose and treat sick children and correctly link children who require advanced care.

According to the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board, the doctor-to-patient ratio currently stands at about one doctor for every 6,355 people which leads to difficulties in getting access to a qualified medical professional. This ratio increases when it comes to specialists. The participating counties in this program have only one or no paediatrician to treat children in these areas.

A total of KES 200 million will be spent in the next 3 years of the initiative.

“Our mission as Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation is to transform communities by improving access to quality healthcare services to needy and disadvantaged children in the country. This involves embracing innovation and technology, as well as research. The Daktari Smart program will enable us to provide the much-needed specialist care to children in far-flung areas, as well as develop appropriate data and information to support paediatric healthcare in the country,” said Les Baillie, the Chairman of Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation.

Daktari Smart is a kit that compromises electronic medical devices such as the Electronic Stethoscope, Vital Signs Monitor, Derma scope Camera, Ultrasound Machine, Otoscope (examine the condition of the ear canal and eardrum) and electrocardiogram (ECG) used to check the heart’s rhythm and electrical activity.

Unlike conventional video conferencing, Daktari Smart allows the healthcare worker at the local partner health facilities, to place electronic medical devices such as a stethoscope or vital signs monitor on the patient.

The specialist at Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital can then see the patient and hear the sounds in real-time without the interpretation from the health worker at the local facility.

The bandwidth requirement for the equipment is low, ranging from 512Kbps to 2Mbps. This means that the platform can be installed in rural and underserved areas that do not have fibre connectivity.

Screens will also be used for video conferencing to facilitate regular capacity building for over 300 health workers serving in the rural health facilities; and training of 360 social workers and community health volunteers (CHVs) in the local community who will support social mobilization.

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