A team of scientists from Cornell Tech in the US are developing an mHealth app to help health workers in Lesotho keep track of samples being delivered by not-for-profit non-governmental organisation, Riders for Health.

According to the WHO, a quarter of Lesotho’s population of just over two million are estimated to be HIV positive. This coupled with the country’s high rate of TB has steadily increased the demand for healthcare.

However, due to the country’s mountainous terrain and lack of infrastructure, the majority of rural dwellers are unable to access hospitals and medical labs which are located in the cities.

In 1991 Riders for Health initiated a programme in Lesotho to overcome the issue of patients in rural clinics having to wait weeks for their test results and as a result experience a delay in their treatment.

The Riders for Health Lesotho programme consists of 72 health workers who use motorcycles to transport patient records and blood samples between remote clinics and labs, cutting the previous waiting period in half, to about a week.

The riders transport thousands of samples every month and up until now have had to rely on paper-based records, which have led to samples getting mixed up or miscategorised, leading to specimens going to the wrong lab and the results never getting back to the patient.

To overcome this issue, a team from Cornell Tech, led by information scientist, Nocla Dell, have developed an mHealth app that will help the health workers digitally track the samples.

According to CityLab, each group of samples is assigned a barcode to make it possible to track information, including what clinic it came from and what tests are needed. As the sample is transported, the riders can scan the code with their phones to update the information to reflect the transportation process. All the information is uploaded onto a web server that can be used to monitor the Riders for Health workflow.

Before Lesotho’s Ministry of Health initiates a national roll out of the mHealth programme, the Cornell Tech team will pilot the programme with a few selected riders.

According to graduate student at Jacobs Institute at Cornell Tech and member of the team, Sean Herman, from this they will be able to see where bottlenecks are in the transport process.“The hope is that by understanding where the delays are, they can improve turnaround times,” said Herman.

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