A report on assessing the use of digital tools for COVID-19 management in the country was unveiled, August 5, 2021, in Nairobi.
The study dubbed: “Use of digital tools in supporting COVID-19 screening, testing, contact tracing and patient management in Mombasa and Machakos Counties,” set out to map the uptake of digital tools that were deployed in the two counties to support COVID-19 management.
Carried out between November 1, 2020, to December 31, 2020, the study was commissioned by the Ministry of Health in partnership with the county governments of Mombasa and Machakos, the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), the Foundation for Innovative and New Diagnostics (FIND) and Digital Technology partners.
The lead researcher of the Study, Prof. Simon Karanja, said the use of digital tools in the management of the COVID-19 scourge has played an important role in the control of the pandemic.
“The adoption of digital tools has enabled efficient transmission of test results to guide clinical management, facilitate identification of cases for isolation to reduce transmission and provide estimates of the prevalence of the disease at the population level,” explained Prof. Karanja who is also the Dean, School of Public Health, JKUAT.
He however said the study identified gaps such as lack of interoperability between systems, lack of a unique identifier system and paucity on the adoption of digital tools brought about by inadequate human resource and financial resources.
“To curb this as a country, we need to implement Kenya Health Information Systems Interoperability framework to facilitate the capture of data at all levels and information exchange across the continuum of care,” said Prof. Karanja.
Lauding the efforts of those involved in the study, the Director General, Ministry of Health, Dr. Patrick Amoth, who also launched the report, acknowledged that the study had shown great success and provided opportunities with regards to the deployment of digital tools in COVID-19 management.
“We have seen achievements and opportunities that can be scaled up such as the interoperability of the digital tools used in pandemics,” said Dr. Amoth.
The Director General urged funding bodies to fund researchers and their work in order to help the government through various ministries to use the findings to inform policies and decision making.
“Such partnerships, with the help of donors, responds to the needs of the ministry in informing the assessment and review of some of the existing eHealth strategies and approaches to improve COVID-19 Management in the Country,” attested Dr. Amoth.
Pegging on the study, Dr. Amoth further encouraged multi-organizational research and collaboration saying, use of digital tools in COVID-19 management could not be stressed further and much work remains to be done to surmount the challenges of the scourge in curtailing the spread of the disease.
“There is so much we can learn from each other and achieve together for better health for all as shown today through this innovative intervention, including how we can improve the use of digital tools in the COVID-19 response.
Executive Director, FIND Kenya, Prof. Joseph Mathu Ndung’u said the report has not only been useful in identifying strengthens and weaknesses but has also proposed a number of measures to improve the use of digital tools in efforts to better address the COVID-19 scourge.
“The report being launched today will be a useful document whose recommendations will make a significant contribution in the fight against COVID-19; and FIND looks forward to strengthening the partnership among JKUAT, Ministry of Health, and other partners in the healthcare space,” said Prof. Ndung’u who is also the Chancellor of JKUAT.
The launch was addressed by Chief Officer of Health, Mombasa, Dr. Pauline Oginga and County Executive Committee of Health, Machakos County, Dr. Ancent Kituku Nzioka. They welcomed the feedback they received during the study saying, it will be vital in guiding interventions, implementation of mitigation strategies and resource planning in COVID-19 management in their respective counties.
Also speaking during the meeting was JKUAT Registrar, Academic Affairs, Dr. Esther Muoria, CEO and Founder of mHealth, Dr. Catherine Mwangi, and Country Representative, Palladium, Ms. Rose Nzyoka who was accompanied by Dr. Jacob Odhiambo and Richard Moreton of Palladium. In attendance were Ministry of Health, FIND, JKUAT and Clinton Health Access Initiative and Kenya Forestry Research Institute staff among other partners.
Prof. Karanja led a formidable team of multidisciplinary researchers including Dr. Jane Aduda, Dr. Reuben Thuo, Prof. Fred Wamunyokoli, Prof. Gideon Kikuvi, Mr. Henry Kissinger, Dr. Thomas Ngigi, Dr. Joseph Matheri, Dr. Susan Mambo, Ms. Esther Gichaiya, Dr. Joseph Machua, Dr. Justus Simba, Dr. Patrick Mburugu and Mr. Philip Oyier.