The Maombi Project
People living in rural areas of developing countries often lack access to proper medical attention, with rural village clinics staffed only by nurses who lack proper medical training. In many cases the patients have to be referred to doctors in far-away city hospitals.
This presents problems for both healthcare providers and the patients. From the patients’ side, the cost of travelling to see the doctors usually includes travel fare, accommodation and food, loss of wages for the patient and at least one accompanying family member which represents a significant loss in household income that is not affordable for many. Furthermore, a low doctor density means there is no guarantee that the patient will be seen on the day of arrival.
Due to these reasons, many patients do not actually follow up on the referrals to visit a hospital, thereby creating problems for healthcare providers who cannot provide their population with proper care.
In 2012 a team of engineers, researchers, medical doctors, business strategists and IT-professionals in Sweden and Tanzania (the co-founders of The Maombi Foundation and DD Innovation) came together to create a solution that addresses the above problems using affordable and accessible mobile technology.
The team developed a mobile application that allows nurses in rural clinics to send patient information (medical history, symptoms, video, and images) to a doctor in a city hospital, or any geographical location for that matter, for medical assessment.
This concept was named the Dr. Maombi™ mobile application. A number of medical specialists such as pediatricians, gynecologists, dermatologists and infectious diseases experts were consulted to ensure that the service gathers a set of data (including patient history and a physical examination) comprehensive enough for a doctor to make a medical assessment or triage.
At the end of 2012, the project participated in an innovation competition (Tritech Internet of Things), and won first prize . The prize-money was used to create a working prototype of the Dr. Maombi™ smartphone application and web-service which was then tested during a week-long field study at a rural district hospital Mkuranga, Tanzania in April 2013 which have allowed us to build a network of potential stakeholders including Swedish Embassy, The World Lung Foundation, Ministry of Health and local universities. The study was managed by one of the founders of Dr. Maombi™ and aided by a Tanzanian medical doctor based in Dar Es Salaam. Due to the positive feedback to the prototype of the mobile application from the healthcare and medical community in Tanzania, the service has continued to be used at the site as per the request of the medical staff.
We have collected opinions from medical doctors, researchers at the Muhumbili University and officials at the Ministry of Health. Based on their comments we are confident that the service can be seamlessly integrated into the current health care and referral system in Tanzania. Further, as the responsibility for each patient remains in the hands of the local health care provider during the consultation process, we can consider the service to be an improved and complementary version of the widely used but problematic tele-consultation option.
In 2013 the Dr. Maombi™ project received grants from Almi and SIDA (Innovation Against Poverty). The Almi grant was used to conduct a market analysis in the fall of 2013. The SIDA IAP grant will be used to conduct a field study in Tanzania during the spring and summer of 2014.
We are looking for further funding to develop the alpha version of the Dr. Maombi™ application in parallel with the ongoing field study in Tanzania. This would be invaluable for us for two main reasons: 1) we could continue to develop the application while collaborating closely with our end-users in order to build the most optimal tele-consultation solution; 2) it would drastically decrease our time to market.
Market and Economic Potential
Revenue from diagnostic mHealth solutions will reach $1.6bn by 2017. There is obvious demand for affordable healthcare among the rural underprivileged, and this demand will exceed supply. Growth will depend on acceptance and rate of adoption from both patients and policy makers.
Questions? Feedback? We’d love to hear from you.