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The presence of ICTs is found in all sectors of the community ranging from communication and entertainment, to religion and governance.  In all instances, ICTs improve the product to which they are applied resulting in enhanced efficiency and effectiveness. In the past, communication was through mail, and earlier was by physical travel. Now it is possible to contact a person anywhere in the world in real time. Football fans watch live matches  from around the world while religious leaders are audible when addressing  mammoth crowds of  believers. Elections, accountability and transparency are some of the ways in which ICT can improve governance. In education,  a lot of  innovations are in place to deliver a quality, timely product.

 


ICTs also play a crucial role in the health sector improving  quality of services and saving lives. Communication is possible between doctors in far away locations discussing symptoms, or treatment of patients. Using the Internet, doctors can consult fellow doctors, browse medical databases or mailing lists. With improved technology, surgeries can be performed without physical incisions.


Below we give you our some of the applications of ICTs in improving service delivery in the health sector that have caught our attention in 2012.

1.     WinSenga
Three Makerere University, Computer and Information Technology students in Uganda have invented a hand-held pregnancy scan-like machine called WinSenga. The machine, which consists of a funnel-like pinnard horn similar to the one used by midwives, can be used to scan a pregnant woman’s womb or detect problems such as ectopic pregnancy or abnormal foetal heart beats.


The pinnard horn part is connected to a smart phone which is then pressed against the abdomen of the pregnant woman. The smart phone screen then displays data on the location and condition of the foetus. Generally, midwives and gynaecologists listen to foetal sounds through the pinnard horn and make a diagnosis basing on the type and strength of the foetal sounds they get but the IT students have upgraded the process by designing a software that enables the smart phone receive and interpret the sounds.

The device allows the examiner to determine the age, weight, position and breathing pattern of the foetus. This will give the examiner an indication as to whether the foetus is progressing well or if there is need for some intervention.
More on winsenga can be found on their blog - http://winsenga.wordpress.com/

2. OScan

The OScan team at Stanford University has developed an affordable screening tool that brings standardized, multi-modal imaging of the oral cavity into the hands of rural health workers around the world, allowing individuals to conduct screenings for oral lesions. This inexpensive device mounts on a conventional camera phone and allows for data to be instantly transmitted to dentists and oral surgeons where possible.

OScan aims to empower minimally-skilled health workers to connect early stage patients to health care providers and teach communities about the importance of oral hygiene. It is currently being used in India.



3.    Smart-phone powered oximeter

Researchers at the University of Melbourne have developed a prototype device that will allow health workers in Mozambique to use their mobile phones to better diagnose and treat pneumonia and other health issues.


An oximeter measures the oxygen content in red blood cells by measuring the absorption of red and infrared light waves as they pass through a patient’s fingertip or ear lobe. Hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component of blood, is often in a depleted state in people with severe pneumonia. It just so happens that the light wavelengths used in oximeters are the same wavelengths used in an optical mouse or a TV remote control.


The testing process is still on-going, and the completed devices are not yet available for sale. If the approach with smart- phones proves successful, the team will focus on expanding its use to simpler cell phones.


References.
1.    http://www.scidev.net/en/new-technologies/icts/news/students-develop-software-to-monitor-unborn-babies.html
2.    http://www.stanford.edu/~manup/Oscan
3.    http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/collaboration/focus/health/smartphone_clinical_diagnosis.aspx

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