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Hacking Healthcare Technology in Africa

Computing, Health
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Malawi, Africa, has a population of 14 million. One million are HIV positive and there are just 280 doctors in the country. This tremendous disparity between healthcare workers and people in need of treatment contributes to high mortality rates, particularly for women and children. Treatment protocols exist that do not require physician expertise. These protocols can ensure a minimum standard of care, but to be effective they must be rigorously followed and carefully monitored.

Baobab Health, a Malawi-based non-governmental organization, has addressed this crisis by innovating appropriate technology that tackles developing country healthcare problems. The core of Baobab’€™s approach is the use of easy-to-use touchscreen clinical workstations at the point of patient care. This system efficiently and accurately guides low-skilled healthcare workers through the diagnosis and treatment of patients according to national protocols. The system also captures timely and accurate data that is used by healthcare workers during patient visits to supplement decision making.

This technology-dependent approach has required both hardware and software innovations, including alternative power approaches, intuitive touchscreen-based user interfaces for users with no computing experience (delivered in a browser and built with Ruby on Rails), and low-cost information appliances and servers that are significantly more robust in harsh environments than traditional computers.

Photo of Mike McKay

Mike McKay

Baobab Health Malawi

Mike McKay likes to hack for social justice. Before figuring out how to actually do that he worked for the bad guys in big media. Now he lives in Malawi, Africa and together with his team is using technology to fight HIV in one of the poorest places on earth.

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