How technology is revolutionizing Tuberclosis Management in Kenya

The use of a computer- and mobile-phone based programme called TIBU is revolutionizing the way Kenya manages tuberculosis (TB). Its makes it possible for health centers to request TB drugs in real-time and handle TB patient data more effectively. The same system is used to carry our to carry out health education and sensitization..

The major challenge of TB treatment in Africa is people defaulting [on treatment], but the introduction of this technology  will reduce significantly because through TIBU as the medical practitioners will be able to track down patient treatment progress.

“By being able to track a patient, the health workers can send them reminders on their mobile phones when they fail to appear for drug refills,”” Joseph Sitienei, head of the Division of Leprosy, TB and Lung Disease at Kenya’s National AIDS Control Programme, told IRIN.

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Data sharing

The major challenge to tackle  the number of dearths of TB patients was the ability to get the information on TB among patients and poor management of patient data .

“People at times default not because they want to but because they lack information, and health facilities do not share patient data and history. Now the government is beginning to appreciate the relevance of technology in managing diseases such as TB,” said Vincent Munada, a clinical officer at the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi.

“Initially, health facilities used to request for TB drugs manually, but with this new system, they can ask for the same and the request is relayed to the ministry headquarters immediately. That way, drugs are supplied on time,” he said.

Kenya is ranked at 15 on the UN World Health Organization (WHO) list of 22 countries with the highest TB burden in the world, and it has the fifth-highest TB burden in Africa. The government says an estimated 250 district hospitals, out of the country’s 290, are using the programme, which was launched in November 2012.

The government is also using the technology to support multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) patients living far from
medical facilities, sending money to patients via the Mpesa mobile phone money-transfer system to cover transport costs.