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The COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on socio-economic activities may result in lasting changes for science, technology and innovation. COVID-19 pandemic threatens to cause long-term damage to innovation systems at a time when science and innovation are most needed to deal with the climate emergency, meet the Sustainable Development Goals, and accelerate digital transformation.

During the pandemic, consumers have moved dramatically toward online channels, and companies and industries have responded in turn. With the rapid shift toward interacting with customers through digital channels, Kisumu can now track contacts of infected Covid patients and deploy strategies to curb the spread of infections. In the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the adoption of contact tracing and self-diagnostic apps is an important instance of this type of policy.

The Covid DX App developed by Pharm Access in May 2020 was launched recently by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe during a visit to Kisumu. After a successful pilot study in 29 hospitals in Kisumu, county health officials decided to invest in the app in May 2021 to help in Covid-19 surveillance. Pharm Access is working with the County Government and health facilities to strengthen surveillance, monitoring and diagnostics.

Adoption In Kisumu Has Taken a Quantum Leap at Both the Organizational and County Levels

“The app has played a major role in public health surveillance by monitoring test results on time, leading to instant action,” said County Health Director Fredrick Oluoch. “As the tests are being run, we can see the numbers per sub-counties, as they test and load. We don’t have to wait for the official communication by the Health CS as we would do before we had the application.”

Covid DX App is in use only in Kisumu, allowing health workers to enter the details of patients infected or suspected to be Covid-19-positive. Through this, the county can access data on new cases every five minutes and see the number of those infected after vaccination, Covid-19 hotspots, allowing the health director to monitor tests being performed in all 19 health facilities that offer such tests.

In May, 13 Lake Region counties were declared Covid-19 hotspots, with Kisumu recording almost a third of Covid-19 infections nationally as reported by the Health Cabinet secretary back then. By mid-June, the county had recorded over 4,000 cases, with 3,000 of the new cases reported over just seven days.

Case Surveillance and Digital Adoption in Kisumu

Virtual communication and conferencing tools like Zoom enabled new forms of research collaboration, knowledge exchange and the provision of training during the pandemic. With Covid DX App the county department of health is tracking patients’ contacts, channeling the right resources to disease hotspots and making proper decisions, unlike in the past when the data entry was made manually, slowly and would end up with errors.

Diagnostic and contact tracing apps are an important weapon against contagion during a pandemic. According to County Health Director Mr Fredrick, “both the health workers and the policymakers can easily access data and see the Covid-19 situation in the county in real time and make strategic decisions before it is late.”

Just as the company was ready to wrap up its services following a successful pilot study, the county health department approached the experts seeking to have the app installed in various hospitals to allow timely data collection.

Widespread adoption could effectively contain or stop the spread of the disease-causing virus, but with new tech, hospitals have almost always been hesitant to adopt and use the apps, largely due to privacy concern. As a result, Pharm Access made available the tablets used to monitor the disease in 19 health care centres.

How Covid DX App Works

From a global perspective, the aim of such apps works by notifying those who have been in contact with known virus carriers and asking them to self-isolate for a few days. More than 45 governments worldwide have launched apps that allow individuals to: (a) run a self-diagnostic, and (b) receive information about whether they have been in recent contact with an infected person.

Just like any other app, Covid DX App requires a good internet connection to allow the submission of data to the dashboard. “Once a patient walks into our health centres, they are cross-examined by doctors and if they display symptoms similar to Covid-19, we key in their profile details on the app dashboard,” affirms Elias Otieno, an ICT expert at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital.

The data entered includes the patient’s name, symptoms, sub-county, location, village and recent places she or he might have visited. The patient is then admitted for the Covid-19 test and once the results are out, ICT experts enter their details indicating if they are positive or negative.

The data is then submitted to the application’s dashboard, allowing health workers and policymakers to access the information. The app then automatically displays the statistics of patients tested over the last five minutes, and the numbers of those who tested positive and negative, including those already vaccinated.

County Health Director Fredrick Oluoch asserts, “with the patient profile, it is easier to track the contacts of an infected patient by notifying the health centres closer to them, have them tested and quarantined before it is late. With the help of the app, however, we are now able to key in the data directly during an encounter with a patient and submit the data to the dashboard within minutes.”

Despite the potential impact of such apps, very few hospitals have adopted them. The county is working to ensure Covid DX App is made accessible in all the Lake Region Economic Bloc countries, especially those still recording high numbers of infections. Intentions to use seem to be lower than acceptance levels, highlighting an intention- behavior gap.

In the US, COVID-19MX diagnostic app never attracted substantial interest from the population. In the rest of the developed world, uptake has also been limited to a minority of the population. One of the most commonly cited concerns is data privacy, with people fearing that contact-tracing apps may be tracking their whereabouts and accumulating personal information. That negative reaction could affect the likelihood of adoption of Covid DX App in the Lake Region.

Author: ibrahim

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