With ‘Connected Diagnostics’ we try to hinder further resistance to malaria drugs and at the same time, reduce treatment costs.
When malaria medicines are overused, the malaria parasites can become resistant, rendering the drugs ineffective. Malaria medicine resistance, like antibiotic resistance, is a major worldwide health challenge, especially in emerging countries where diseases such as tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria are common.
Malaria medicines are often overprescribed in the absence of diagnostic tools, either to save time, or due to clinician’s avoidance of risks, or patient pressure to prescribe certain medications. PharmAccess and Joep Lange Institute’s Research and Learning Department digitally track patient journeys, which allows for investigating the prescription behavior of doctors. In Kisumu County, Kenya, we promoted free malaria tests and treatment via the M-TIBA mobile health platform.
The 11,689 malaria diagnostic tests performed in 2018 collected important data on malaria prevalence but also on the patients' poverty level, age, gender and insurance status. Importantly the findings led to the introduction of an alternate payment mechanism to doctors. Thanks to digitalization, insurers and other payers can reward doctors for the services or drugs they prescribe under the condition that the patient has tested positive. This is creating significant efficiencies for patients and clinics in comparison to top-down payment mechanisms that target national institutions. Having the diagnostic process digitalized promotes transparency and efficiency while saving on unnecessary treatments. In Kisumu county, Kenya, we calculated a saving potential of 15% per year, compared to the usual care provision of malaria.
Making treatment conditional on positive malaria test results, utilizing digitized diagnostics and M-TIBA, is showing how disease treatment, financing and care can be transformed. Connected Diagnostic's can be effective even when addressing a rare disease in a remote, nomadic population and can be scaled to address more prevalent diseases and conditions in a more populous context (Smith et al., 2019).
This research has been performed by PharmAccess under a pioneering grant from the Joep Lange Institute.
Sub-Sahara Africa's health challenges ask for smart, innovative healthcare solutions as well as thorough research to improve credibility and translate learnings into new interventions. That is why PharmAccess and Joep Lange Institute conduct independent academic research and evaluation. We facilitate access to data generated by our programs and adopt research learnings to improve intervention quality. PharmAccess advocates for proven, successful healthcare models and interventions.