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Friday, April 09, 2010

Development of a robotic health assistant to the management of malaria among nomads

The following very interesting item was posted on the Healthcare Information For All by 2015 [HIFA2015] list (I have added some formatting and links).

Dear All,

We received a Grand Challenges Exploration grant (a Gates Foundation initiative) for the development of a robotic health assistant to the management of malaria among nomads whose access to health service has always posed a concern. A robotic health assistant was constructed using aluminum casing. The device has three components: an interactive non-replaceable section that processes information and provides output. A replaceable laboratory containing supplies for qualitatively distinguishing between fevers associated with malaria and those that are non-malaria and a second replaceable component, a dispensary containing analgesics, ant malaria [*] and antibiotics for treating different types of fevers. The user communicates with the device using three buttons and receives fe
edback in Fulfude the nomadic Fulani language. The device interviews the user, processes the user’s responses and gives instructions. The accuracy of the information provided by the patient (user), and the ability of the user to carry out the instructions are critical to illness outcome. The device is solar-powered, is able to repeat previous instructions as many times as the patient desires, and provides referral.

Ten such robotic health assistants (ROBODOCs) were deployed among two main groups of nomads (those with previous experience using communication devices such as handheld mobile phones and those without such experience). The volunteer user was given basic information on the use, the switch-ON button, charging the device, and replacing the components. The user contacts a Field Assistant with hand-held mobile phone who in turn alerts the Research Supervisor whenever a case is managed. The Supervisor holds a phone interview with user and beneficiary patient at the end of the consultation with Robodoc as part of the quality assurance.

Robodoc was withdrawn after three months of deployment. Members of the community, beneficiaries and users were interviewed. Each device was examined for durability in the field. The ten units managed more than 80 cases of fever and appropriately diagnosed and treated 90% of them. Previous experience with using a modern communication device was not an important factor in the use of the Robodoc. The nomads found the device very useful and made suggestions on how it may be used for the management of several other health problems besides fevers.

We are keen to publish the findings from testing the device in a peer-reviewed journal. Does anyone have an idea of any journal that may be interested in this sort of research?

Oladele Akogun

HIFA2015 profile: Oladele Akogun is a professor of public health parasitology at the Federal University of Technology, Yola, Nigeria and Principal Scientist at the Common Heritage Foundation/Nigeria.
He has spent over 24 years carrying out research and community service on access of community populations to health care delivery among marginalized populations. He is a pioneer researcher and contributor to the development of the community directed intervention approach to health service delivery now used in onchocerciasis control in Africa. With a Grand Challenges exploration (GCE) grant from The Gates Foundation, he is leading a team to develop a robotic health assistant for the management of malaria among nomads. He sits on two committees of the WHO/African region and on 5 committees at the Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria. He has worked at various times as consultant to Constella-Futures, Africare and WHO where he worked for a year as Technical Adviser. He has made presentations to the African Regional Ministers forum on Primary Health, the US Congressional subcommittee on international aid and PAHO. He holds a PhD (1991) from the University of Jos and a Master of Public Health (2008) from the University of the Western Cape, South Africa. Some of his views are expressed in http://blog4globalhealth.wordpress.com/bios/akogun1/
akoguno AT yahoo.com

[*Notes from HIFA2015 moderator:
1. I think this should read 'antimalarials'.
2. A picture of the device in action is available on the Gates Foundation website at:
'Oladele Akogun of the Common Heritage Foundation in Nigeria is testing a 'fever kit' for use among nomadic populations. The device is equipped with simple diagnostic tools and prerecorded treatment instructions in the native language to help nomadic caregivers accurately diagnose and treat fevers in a way that reduces mortality and drug resistance.' Thanks, Neil PW]

(In re-posting I have added the image at left.)

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