By Winnie Osika
Hypertensive patients can now record and monitor their blood pressure through their mobile phones, thanks to an application. The mobile application- MyAfya, which is currently running on android, enables the patients to record their systolic and diastolic blood pressure (BP) numbers and track their blood pressure trends, thus manage the disease effectively.
Ideally, patients who monitor their blood pressure at home using over the counter blood pressure cuffs often forget to keep a record of the readings as they only get to know whether the blood pressure was low or high on that particular day.
With this mobile app, one is able to monitor and track their BP. The application also offers a medication management system that reminds patients to take their medicine through a push notification, either through a text or call. Chief Executive Officer and Founder of the technology based company, Jackline Murimi says that the app is a one stop shop for patients with high blood pressure and who are not only able to monitor their blood pressure but also get doctor referrals and medicine.
“The key principle is that smartphones will become central to a person’s life. Why not allow that device to power some of your healthcare and management needs,” Murimi says. Coming from a family where almost everyone has been diagnosed with High Blood Pressure (HBP), Murimi says that it is through her mother’s illness that the idea and concept of MyAfya Company was born.
“I wanted to understand more about the disease, how it can be managed and in return, go back to the communities and create awareness on the same and seek solutions through various stake holders,” she says. Through this drive, MyAfya, which is a technology-based company that focuses on improving the health and safety of people having hypertension, was started in 2015.
At its start, focus was on researched and screening and reaching out to the locals of Nyeri County through creating awareness and through public education on Hypertension care.
A year later, the company went into full business and the MyAfya mobile application was launched. “We realized that the application alone cannot create awareness about the disease and that is why we opted to start by holding public forums with the locals together with the relevant stakeholders on board, that are doctors, community health workers and the local dispensaries,” says Murimi.
At the inception of the app in 2016, about 82 users were on board. The number has since grown to 800 with users recording their readings two times a month on average.
According to Forbes, Mobile applications and developments are one of the most actively growing sectors in the technology industry. The number of free downloaded apps in 2017 is projected to rise to more than 254 billion up from 57.33 billion in 2012.
The market is currently dominated by Google apps, social media, and lifestyle and gaming apps. In Kenya, large companies, retailers, banks and media houses are using mobile applications for branding, increasing customer engagement and direct marketing.
The entrance of MyAfya app into the health mobile app market in Kenya will add to the seamless flow of health access, education and delivery of services to the end user. Other players in the health industry who have embraced use of mobile phones to deliver health services are M-DAKTARI and Daktari 1525 which is a voice based service provided by Safaricom, enabling customers to get information on various medical issues through the phone.
The service also allows customers to reach medical services quickly by calling a qualified medical practitioner through the phone. According to the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), current mobile penetration stands at 88.1 per cent with 37.8 million subscribers, up from 36.1 million in the previous quarter as per the quarterly sector statistics.
A report by e-commerce company –Jumia, indicated that the penetration of smart phones in Kenya has grown to more than 60 per cent over the past five years, with uptake mainly by the millennials.
The MyAfya founder mentions that plans are underway to run the app on Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) which would be the ideal model to reach out to patients who do not have a smart phone or may not necessarily know how to operate one.
She adds that the USSD app would come in handy for this group but the challenge is that the model is very expensive to run considering the margins of the business have been small since they started.
The company currently generates income through a small monthly fee that users pay for maintenance of the app and when the patient requests for drugs or doctor referrals through the app. Murimi agrees that crucial data such as one’s health leaking out may turn out to be tragic both to the user and the company as health/medical information is private.
“Health data is very crucial, so this App was made with the patient in mind that only they can share the data that they record. With such apps, you need to invest heavily on security and protection of your servers so that they are not prone to hacking.
Again, we do not share this data with third parties such as health insurance companies unless the user agrees to. It’s strictly confidential,” she states. Further, she mentions that the future of technology is bright especially in the health sector and that there is a huge potential for growth in this sector if focus is put on more research and new data.
Latest data from the Ministry of Health in the Kenya STEPwise Survey for Non- Communicable Disease Risk Factors indicates that 56 per cent of Kenyans have never screened for BP. Furthermore, among those who reported to have been previously diagnosed with hypertension, only 22.3 per cent were currently on medication prescribed by a health worker.
Data published by World Health Organization in 2017 indicated that hypertension killed 3728 or 1.32 per cent of the total deaths in Kenya. In future, MyAfya plans into covering all Non Communicable Diseases through the mobile app with focus on diabetes, arthritis and asthma.