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Rwanda Is Saving Babies And Mothers By SMS

by Jean de la Croix Tabaro
6:12 am
A community health worker interacts with a new mother

A community health worker interacts with a new mother

Eliab Mugabo, a medical assistant at a health center in Nyamagabe, southern province, advised an expecting mother that it was time to head to the hospital, but she neglected the reminder.

Suddenly, she found herself in a critical condition. When delivery time approached, she sent a message via Rapid SMS, a platform used for sending distress messages.

“We got a red alarm and recommended local leaders to make sure she goes to the nearby Kaduha hospital and she is now a proud mother of a boy aged six months.”

Introduced in 2014, the Rapid SMS became another platform that helps to track women from the first day of gestation to child birth and beyond.

The government distributed free telephones to community health workers installed with a software that tracks and reports about women and their baby’s health condition.

How does it operate?

First, a health worker identifies cases of women in his or her village, says Erick Gaju, in charge of e-health at the Ministry of Health.

Then he or she counsels and advises them to send a message whenever an emergency occurs.

Any case of emergency, an SMS is sent to toll free number and it is delivered to a central server. The system then sends a quick message to a health center in the territory and tells them to intervene. All this process takes a couple of seconds.

Gaju says that the technology has helped in delivery of “timely health care.”

He said in some instances, hospitals send ambulances at midnight, after an SMS is sent by voluntary community health workers.

Their work is yielding tremendous results, he says.

The Rwanda Demographic Health Survey published in August 2015, indicates that 91% of Rwandan women are assisted by a skilled provider. The same rate of women delivers from a health facility.

The same survey indicates that 99% of the Rwandan women receive antenatal care at least once during pregnancy.

Besides the Rapid SMS, the Health Management Information System (HMIF) can now allow medical practitioners to follow up cases, from a hospital to another and to plan for referral cases.

For example, a doctor prepares for a patient before he or she arrives at the hospital.

The Electronic Logistic Management Information System (ELMIS) is a new system that helps in online ordering of drugs.

In the old analog system, a health center had to write on a hard copy to request for drugs from the director of a district hospital. This had to be endorsed by the Ministry of Health before the drugs reached the health center, which took weeks.

With the current system, every endorsement is done online and so is every purchase order.

Gaju told KT Press that to customize these systems and more others cost the country over $1 million but they are worth it.

Improving ICT in health was one of commitments that were made by Head of State during the Transform Africa Summit 2013 in Kigali.

In the summit, Heads of States endorsed five principles that intend to revamp ICT in different sectors of life, health care inclusive.

During the Transform Africa summit 2015 takes place from Monday October 19, Rwanda will be showcasing the success of the investment made so far.