by Arafat Wakulira
Inspired by a true story of Arafat Wakulira (third from the left), a long term Biomedical Engineering volunteer for a THET funded project; The Uganda Maternal & Newborn Hub. Following a road traffic accident involving two of his brothers, a team of Biomedical Engineers from Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital, ICT and Business students from Mbarara University of Science and Technology took it upon themselves to innovate a solution to speed up rescue of road traffic accident victims.
The hackathon competition, organised by the Consortium of Affordable Medical Technologies, CAMTech Uganda, took place on 27th and 28th August. It was attended by the honourable Minister of ICT & National Guidance, Frank Tumwebaze, the honourable Minister of Science and Technology Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye and other multinational delegates from America, India, Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia.
The theme of the hackathon focussed on solving global surgery problems through technological innovation. In Uganda it is estimated that 50% of all surgical cases are related to road traffic accidents and according to the World Health Organisation 90% of the 1.25million annual accidents occur in low and medium income countries. It is therefore very appropriate that one of the UN sustainable development goals is set to halve the global number of deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents by 2020.
The system for responding to road traffic accidents is very poor in Uganda and this contributes to the above statistic by the World Health Organisation. For the accident pictured above, it took 20 hours before completing all medical examinations to ascertain the full extent of injuries. The whole journey to seek medical care involved four medical institutions. A health centre in Lyantonde was the first to receive the injured. They were then directed to a medium size hospital in Mbarara for imaging services. Shortly after they were transferred to a bigger hospital in Kampala for further specialist medical investigations and finally directed to a specialist eye hospital also in Kampala.
The four health institutions involved in treating the injured had a wide variation in services and facilities; and the uncoordinated inter-hospital referrals led to the 20 hours delay before completing all medical assessments. An ordinary member of the public would not know the most appropriate, immediate health centre to visit in case of an emergency and the speed of response may mean the difference between life and death. With this problem in mind, a team of Mbarara innovators have proposed a web and smart phone application solution that gives the location information of the nearest health centres and the facilities offered. For members of the community without access to smart phones or internet, they offer a toll free number or SMS service to provide the same information.