Staying connected: Telehealth Update

The longest standing component of our Ubuntu Health program is that every year we host at least three medical camps where dedicated medical volunteers come to Kenya to share their subspecialty training with us. We estimate that over 8,000 children have been seen during these clinics in the 15 years since we began the program. Currently there are 276 children in our pediatric neurology program - these are patients that need to be seen on a regular basis for checkups and medication to keep them healthy and seizure free.

2020 will be no exception to this long standing program. Although the U.S. volunteers and their families will not be able to make the journey to Kenya, we are working with our medical committee to prepare for the first ever Ubuntu telehealth clinics in June.

It is thanks to our Tribe members - monthly or annual donors who keep our programs strong and empower us to expand our services - that we have been able to build infrastructure and capacity that makes us better prepared than ever to confront this new reality.

In 2019 we launched Xelpha Health’s Aphya, a digital medical records database for all of our ongoing pediatric patients. Ubuntu was one of the pilot programs for the company, so we were able to adapt the interface to best service our community health workers on the ground in Kenya. Their focus on the user experience and reducing redundancy in record keeping allowed us to train our team on the ground to begin the arduous task of digitizing all old medical records (and there were a LOT of them!). Now all of our patient records are up to date and accessible by our pediatricians who run weekly clinics at Ubuntu and by our medical volunteers in the US who attend these regular clinics that we host.

June, however, will be a big leap forward in our use of telehealth for Ubuntu programs. We will not only use it to access patient records to keep our kids on the neurological medications that are vital to their progress, but we will host daily telehealth video clinics between patients and healthcare workers in Kenya and our team of pediatric neurologists here in the US. There is very little sub-specialty medical care available in Kenya (there are less than a handful of pediatric neurologists in the entire country), so their support and input is crucial to our treatment of new patients and, for example, patients with breakthrough seizures. The US doctors will be able to review patient charts beforehand and ask questions through the platform so that when the video conference starts, we can be efficient and effective in creating a treatment plan for each child.

 

As many of us know through the last few weeks of getting on-boarded with a plethora of video conferencing platforms for meetings, there are a number of technical difficulties that we will likely face. From now until June we will be doing dry runs of the program and format to identify these issues and make contingency plans in case, for example, we lose video connection. There will be challenges based just on the distance as well - an 8 hour time difference means that even though our US volunteers will be logging into treat patients first thing in the morning, it will be evening for our patients and the family members who brought them in. This means providing transportation to get them home safely, an additional expense in an uncertain time. We’re also looking into options for backup power, more reliable WiFi options, and bringing in more clinic workers to act as tech support. 

Despite these hurdles, we are eternally grateful to be able to pivot in this way, to be able to still service the children who are counting on us, to provide high quality care for our patients and peace of mind for their families. Our team in Kenya is energized and ready to do whatever it takes to see this through - from Betsy, our pharmacist who will be dispensing medications to all of our patients in need, to our pediatricians who will be the critical link between the patients and our US medical providers, to our new social worker Andrew who will be working to schedule the patients in order to allow us to host the clinic in accordance with social distancing guidelines to the best of our ability.

Onward, and asante sana!