Africa Turns to Cellphones for Better Health
April 4, 2011
Some 10,000 patients at South Africa's largest HIV treatment center, Johannesburg's Themba Lethu clinic, have signed up for a text messaging service that discretely sends out appointment reminders. "See you at the clinic tomorrow," one txtAlert states. Clinic managers say missed appointments have declined from 15 percent in mid-2007 to just 4 percent today.
"These tools solve problems specific to developing countries, such as a lack of specialists and specialized services in rural areas," added Richard Gakuba, coordinator of Rwanda's eHealth initiatives.
Rwanda employs the TRACnet program in 450 health centers. Developed by the U.S. firm Voxiva, TRACnet records HIV data, sends reminders for reports to be filed, monitors drug supplies, and delivers test results. The wait for HIV diagnosis in infants has been cut from four months to two weeks. TRACnet "is the only tool we have for tracking this data," said Christian Munyaburanga, an e-Health trainer.
txtAlert was developed by South Africa's Praekelt Foundation. Marcha Neethling said the program costs approximately 14 cents per patient per month. "There is no other technology that can reach people in such masses, she said. "For the bang for your buck -- the amount that you would spend to reach one person -- it is by far the cheapest technology."
Agence France Presse
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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