NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 26 – The rise in Multi Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB) cases could soon be averted if research into a new technology that involves mobile phone monitoring of drugs administered succeeds.,
A study conducted at the Mbagathi District Hospital by Danya International – a research, technology and communications firm – and the two ministries of health (Medical Services and Public Health) indicated that use of mobile phone could increase health care to TB patients.
Official government statistics indicate that there are about 500 MDR-TB patients in the country, a type of TB that develops when patients skip medication.
"When a patient registers, they can say what time they are supposed to take their medication so that you can punch that time in and then they can receive an SMS reminding them (to take the medicine)," Danya International Africa Regional Director Aaron Sundsmo said.
"This technology exists…we just need to set it up for this kind of health purpose."
Mr Sundsmo said the system would also allow patients to text questions to their health care providers.
"During the trials we had a patient who had developed side effects from the medication. He was able to SMS his health provider and was assured that it was a common side effect," he said, explaining that such a service would reduce unnecessary visits to hospitals.
Mr Sundsmo said the Mobile Direct Observation Treatment (MDOT) would complement the Direct Observation Treatment (DOT) which involves TB patients going to hospital to be observed as they take their medication.
The DOT strategy is recommended by World Health Organisation. It also requires that TB patients be directly observed by either a friend, family or health worker everyday as they take their medication to avoid default.
"The (current) challenge is the travel to a health clinic because of cost and time constraints. So we are hoping to do observation in the patients’ homes through MDOT," said Mr Sundmo.
"The cost of treating regular TB is about Sh6,000 over a period of six to eight months so if just one patient develops MDR-TB – meaning they didn’t take their medication everyday – it increases the cost to the Kenyan health system to Sh1.3 million per patient."
The organisation however wants to carry out a large scale trial to scientifically measure the effects of using the MDOT method and the cost effectiveness.