The Role of Mobile Technology in Kenya Healthcare
In a report released last year by Statista [i], Kenya is the leading consumer of internet via use of smartphones in the world. This has been attributed to the country’s high level of smartphones penetration rate which recently surpassed the 40 million mobile subscriptions in 2017 and stands at 41 million, with a reach of 90.4 per cent of the adult population. With such a high number of the population having access to smartphones, mobile technologies are increasing rapidly in Kenya and its being embraced in the Banking, Transport and Healthcare industries to name a few.
The role of mobile technology in healthcare industry is crucial as it helps improve healthcare provider-patient communication and thus accelerate the patient care process. This technology includes devices, applications and services for the treatment and care of patients, and also systems and devices designed to monitor compliance with treatment and healthcare outcomes. In Kenya, a country where smartphones are pervasive, the use of mobile technology is highly encouraged to improve healthcare services. Mobile Health (mHealth) is widely used in Kenya to educate the people about diseases, preventive measures and treatment support. With the help of some of these mobile applications (apps), healthcare providers have been able to provide better services to its patients.
Daktari Popote App
The Daktari Popote [ii] (Swahili word meaning ‘Doctor Anywhere’) is an on-demand web-based and mobile app connecting patients to health consultancy services from all the medical practitioner specialisms including general practitioning at the comfort of their home, office or any other place of the patient’s preference, has been launched in Kenya. In Kenya there is a shortage of doctors with only 7,333 [iii] in total for a population of 46.6 million [iv] , which translates to a dismal one doctor per 6,355 citizens for the entire country. With 50% of the doctors practicing in Nairobi (with an estimated population of 3 million people), a large number of the population lack access to basic healthcare. This is where the Daktari Popote app meets the challenge of healthcare access, connecting the people to doctors and healthcare specialists. The app allows doctors to send prescriptions through the app and patients can visit the nearest pharmacy to buy medications. It also allows patients to take and send pictures to doctors or attach test results such as X-ray, Ultra sound among others for diagnosis. Patients have 5 days to chat with the health specialist for free after paying the consultation fee. This will allow the specialist to follow up on how they are progressing. Users can consult health specialists through a WhatsApp like chat, audio or video through the app.
M-Tiba [v] is a mobile health wallet app launched by Safaricom, Kenya’s leading mobile network provider, that helps the people in saving money for medical expenses. Money saved through the app can be used to pay for services and medication at specific healthcare facilities which carry the M-TIBA logo. In a country where 4 out of 10 people cannot afford hospital treatment, this app allows them to save nominal funds for future medical expenses. With the huge leaps made in network connectivity, there has been an increase in the usage of the app countrywide but more needs to be done to encourage use of this useful mobile app.
MedAfrica [vi] is a free informative mobile app that provides direct access to health-related content and services. It allows users to search, filter and view health information and locate reputable doctors and hospitals near them, as well as connect with the doctors on the go. It also provides information on hospitals, diagnosis, symptoms, nutrition, treatments, first aid, insurance and fitness. The key practical benefit of this app is that its free and can be accessed even when offline.
MyDawa [vii] is an e-health platform that is both mobile and web-based that enables users to conveniently purchase authentic medicines and wellness products. This app, provides the benefit of transparency, convenience and affordability to the user. Through MyDawa, users can upload their prescriptions via the website or mobile phones, which is then verified by MyDawa pharmacists and an order generated. After payments, the medicine is sent to their preferred location. The key merit of MyDawa is that the healthcare products are sold at a cheaper price compared to other stores. MyDawa also ensures better quality assurance as it tackles the issue of counterfeit drugs/products in the market since the entire supply chain process is tracked and one has the option of authenticating the products.
Hello Doctor/Sema Doc
Hello doctor [viii] (“Sema Doc” in Swahili) is a mobile app that provides free essential healthcare information that is daily updated. The app also provides access to healthcare advice, answers to health-related questions in live group chat forums, confidential one-on-one text conversations with a doctor, and the ability to receive a call-back from a doctor within 60 minutes. The app which is part of a Safaricom partnership allows their M-Pesa and M-Shwari subscribers to access medical facilities such as hospitals, pharmacies and clinics and health loans using their mobile phones via the app. This app however does not replace face-to-face consultation with a doctor but helps serve more people and frees up medics from spending a lot of time dealing with non-life threatening conditions, hence focusing on high priority or life threatening patient cases.
[i] The Statistics Portal, ‘Mobile internet traffic as percentage of total web traffic as of January 2018, by country’, The Statistics Portal, January 2018, https://www.statista.com/statistics/430830/share-of-mobile-internet-traffic-countries/ , (accessed 4 March 2019).
[ii] TechMoran, ‘Daktari Popote, Kenya’s First Health Consultation App Launches’, TechMoran, November 7, 2016, https://techmoran.com/2016/11/07/daktari-popote-kenyas-first-health-consultation-app-launches/ , (accessed 26 February 2019).
[iii] Daniel M. Yumbya, Registration and Distribution of Doctors in the Country, Nairobi, Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board,21st March 2018, Press Release.
[iv] Alphonce Shiundu, ‘As help from Cuba arrives, is there only one Kenyan doctor for every 16,000 people?’, Africa Check, 19th June 2018, https://africacheck.org/reports/as-help-from-cuba-arrives-is-there-only-one-kenyan-doctor-for-every-16000-people/ , (accessed 28 February 2019).
[vi] Martin Gicheru, ‘Shimba Technologies Launches MedAfrica Mobile App’, Techweez, November 2, 2011, https://techweez.com/2011/11/02/shimba-techmologies-launches-medafrica-mobile-app/ , (accessed 3 March 2019).
[vii] Humphrey Odhiambo, ‘MyDawa brand the first ever Retail License for an e-retailing pharmacy in Kenya’, CIO East Africa, May 9, 2018, https://www.cio.co.ke/mydawa-brand-the-first-ever-retail-license-for-an-e-retailing-pharmacy-in-kenya/ , (accessed 3 March 2019).
[viii] Dinfin Mulupi,’Kenya: Hello Doctor hoping mobile healthcare will be the next big thing’, How we made it in Africa,11 September 2015, https://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com/kenya-hello-doctor-hoping-mobile-healthcare-will-be-the-next-big-thing/51765/ , (accessed 3 March 2019).