M-PESA Foundation and Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation have today launched a telemedicine initiative—Daktari Smart— in Lamu County.

The program, that targets over 32,000 children in Lamu, Samburu, Homabay, Baringo Counties, aims to reduce the number of referrals of sick children by allowing county health facilities to have access to specialists. Two other counties will be brought on board in the next phase of this program.

It will also optimize the capacity and reach of healthcare delivery systems by helping bridge the gap of access to healthcare services in Lamu.

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 the program either have one or no paediatrician to treat children.

Through the initiative, doctors in Lamu County will thus be able to connect with their counterparts at Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital for specialist medical advice, in a bid to reduce patient referrals, save on costs, and increase prompt treatments.

“Patients in this county have been referred as far as Mombasa County and sometimes it’s too little, too late. And this is what Daktari Smart seeks to address,” said Karen Basiye, Head of Sustainable Business and Social Impact, Safaricom, in Lamu County during the launch.

M-PESA Foundation has committed over KES 168 million towards the initiative while Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation will invest over KES 35 million in the next 3 years.

“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.

Additionally, Daktari Smart will also see community health volunteers, social workers and health workers in the County benefit from training via video conferencing to build their skillset and capacity.

Daktari Smart will also have 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 the electrocardiogram (ECG) used to check the heart’s rhythm and electrical activity.

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

The specialist at Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital is then able to 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 fiber 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 in social mobilization.