Qualcomm and telcos implement wireless health care with 3G technology in Africa

Lagos 17 March 2009Qualcomm has again empowered rural communities in Africa in the area of health care, through the use of its 3G wireless technologies initiative that was launched in 2005. Qualcomm, in collaboration with the Provincial Medical Office of Nairobi, Communications Commission of Kenya, Telkom Kenya, Axesstel, and RTI International, is planning to implement a wireless health care project in Kenya that will improve HIV/AIDS treatment at the Kasarani Health Centre in Nairobi. The project harnesses the benefits of advanced 3G wireless event technology to make the supply of antiretroviral medicines (ARVs) more efficient.


HIV/AIDS is one of Kenya's most pressing health concerns and offering antiretroviral treatment (ART) is a key component of the government's strategy to reduce HIV/AIDS-related morbidity and mortality. Nairobi currently has more than 20 ART sites under the supervision of the Provincial Medical Office (PMO).

Accrding to Qualcomm, the initial project coverage is focused on 16 sites that receive their antiretroviral medicines exclusively from the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA). Information and telecommunications capabilities at the ART centres are limited to VHF radios with no official telephone line connections.

"A reliable, uninterrupted supply of ARVs is crucial to the success of antiretroviral therapy", stated Dr. Samuel Ochola, provincial director of public health and sanitation, Nairobi. "Our current supply management system is characterized by tedious and time consuming manual maintenance of records, which is a heavy burden considering the shortage of human resources. Automating the process will enhance the record keeping and reporting processes and help us provide more efficient care to those affected by HIV/AIDS."

Through its Wireless Reach initiative, Qualcomm is working together with project participants to equip the ART centres with computers, software and wireless broadband connectivity based on CDMA2000 revolution, a technology to facilitate the on-line communication and transmission of reports. The project is also providing technical support, training and capacity building to ensure long-term sustainability and promote scalability.

Describing the process to achieving the feat, health centers will receive computers and support equipment needed for wireless connectivity. The computers will be connected to Telkom Kenya's Orange Broadband network, based on CDMA2000 revolution. The upgrade will facilitate on-line reporting to KEMSA and improve co-ordination between the health care centres, the districts and the PMO.

"In countries like Kenya, with the challenges implied in the expansion of fixed-line broadband networks, 3G wireless technology allows us to overcome these constraints", stated Dominque Saint Jean, chief executive officer of Telkom Kenya. "We serve emerging markets and are committed to the goal of universal connectivity", stated Clark Hickock, chief executive officer of Axesstel. "We are excited to be able to provide assistance for such a worthy cause and work with Telkom Kenya to supply an innovative communications solution for this project. Axesstel's next-generation, feature-rich fixed wireless voice and broadband data devices have proven value to advanced wireless network operators throughout the world. We look forward to being a part of this Wireless Reach programme and delivering our valuable service to this region."

The project implementation is being managed by RTI along with the PMO and will make use of open source software designed by RTI, which is derived from the manual recording system for managing antiretrovirals throughout Kenya. The new system will be adapted for use in the health centres. Capacity building will also be provided for trainers who will be responsible for teaching PC skills and the new software to health care workers at the ART sites.

The long-term goal is to produce a software and communication system that is locally sustainable and scalable to other health centres within Nairobi and other provinces. Ultimately, the same system could be extended to manage all pharmaceuticals.

"Cellular wireless connectivity is putting Kenya on a new path to development", stated Mr. Charles J.K. Njoroge, director general of Communications Commission of Kenya. "This project is a great example of how public-private partnerships and the power of technology can be used to improve the quality of life by providing a critical service to Kenyans." The Commission supports the project as part of its involvement in public-private partnerships and delivery of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to the underserved population in Kenya.

"By providing the public health centres with 3G connectivity, we are creating a communication network that will bring more efficient care at faster speeds to patients in need", stated Jeffrey A. Jacobs, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Qualcomm.

The Provincial Medical Office of Nairobi is charged with the responsibility of monitoring and supervising health care services in Nairobi to ensure that they adhere to the required standards of health care delivery as articulated by the Ministry of Health. The PMO additionally co-ordinates the operations of government health care facilities within the city through the District Health Management Offices, which are co-staffed and co-funded by the Ministries of Medical Services; Public Health and Sanitation and Local Government.

The goal of the PMO is to avail health care, including ART, services as close as possible to the majority of the population of Nairobi. One of the most important goals of the PMO is to ensure that even health centres in the poorly accessible areas of the city - characterized by poor infrastructure and inadequate communication facilities - are able to provide health services including ART. In this endeavour, the PMO collaborates with various development partners and stakeholders to strengthen its health care delivery systems.

QualComm's Wireless Reach initiative seeks to use the benefits of 3G to enable and empower communities worldwide that currently have limited or no telecommunications access.

In 2005, QualComm launched Wireless Reach as a pilot project. In October 2006, Wireless Reach grew into a global initiative to empower underserved communities through the use of 3G wireless technologies. The objective of this programme is to use 3G to strengthen economic and social development with a focus on education, entrepreneurship, health care, the environment and public safety. Wireless Reach achieves this by creating sustainable 3G projects through partnerships with non-governmental organisations, universities, government institutions, development agencies and other private sector companies. More company news is available in the VMW January 2009 article Advanced technologies and wireless telecommunications enhance care and medical training at the Ryder Trauma Center in Miami.

Source: Qualcomm

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