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A new initiative by the year-old Health eVillages organization aims to deliver medical education via mobile devices to clinicians in some of the most underserved parts of Africa.
The project is being introduced in one of Health eVillages' largest pilot locations, Kenya's Kijabe Hospital, a teaching institution that each month treats some 10,000 patients from across East Africa. The hospital regularly conducts training sessions for its medical staff of 100, providing a venue for various in- and outpatient services ranging from general and orthopedic surgery to neonatal and HIV care.
Launched in partnership with Oakstone Publishing, a provider of multimedia continuing education materials for physicians, the program will deliver video learning tools to clinicians via Health eVillages' tablets and serve as another continuing education tool for medical professionals to keep up with the latest clinical procedures. The educational material will include lectures from high-profile medical professionals and institutional and detailed medical knowledge from more than 40 different medical specialties.
Health eVillages, founded in partnership with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and Physicians Interactive in September 2011, provides handheld devices, such as iPod Touches or iPads, to healthcare professionals in developing countries around the world. The devices are loaded with relevant specialized medical reference content and clinical decision support tools. The organization also provides training and support for clinicians in these areas.
Pilot programs conducted by the nonprofit group have been started this past year in China, Haiti, rural Louisiana and Uganda.
Donato Tramuto, founder of Health eVillages and CEO and vice chairman of Marlborough, Mass.-based Physicians Interactive, says this latest initiative began after former Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist connected Health eVillages with Mark Newton, MD, a Vanderbilt teacher and physician who spends 40 weeks a year at Kijabe Hospital.
"We realized that, painfully, one of the challenges (Newton]) was facing in that community was the reality of medical students – who were trying to get trained to be physicians or medical support personnel – that the textbooks they were using were outdated; they were 60, 70, 80 years old," he said.
"The quantity was even more surprising," Tramuto added, saying six medical reference books were being shared among 30 students.
Tramuto recalled a story in Kenya involving a nurse practitioner who was worried that a pregnant 15-year-old was going to deliver a baby who wasn't breathing. That morning, the nurse practitioner was able to view an educational medical video on infant resuscitation, a resource that was previously unavailable. Later that day, when the baby was born, not breathing as expected, the nurse practitioner was able to save the newborn's life because of the education he received hours earlier.
"It’s doing small things that can help to create big things, like saving a baby’s life," said Tramuto.
"Continuing medical education is critical to the practice of medicine, and Health eVillages understands the inherent challenge involved in staying current on evidence-based research and medical advancements – especially in developing regions worldwide," said Tramuto, adding that mobile health technology “will help medical professionals build on their medical skills and knowledge to deliver better patient care."
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