Heart patients to get treatment at a cheaper cost, thanks to devices

Heart

Shutting down services for non-communicable diseases is likely to worsen patients’ underlying conditions.

Photo credit: Fotosearch

What you need to know:

  • Patients to benefit from 30 digital ultrasound devices
  • A partnership between University of Nairobi Enterprises and Services (Unes) and The Heart Centre

Shutting down services for non-communicable diseases is likely to worsen patients’ underlying conditions, leading to more severe cases, shows a recent World Health Organization survey.

But, a recent partnership will see the University of Nairobi Enterprises and Services (Unes) and The Heart Centre benefit from 30 digital ultrasound devices that will be used by trained doctors who have no access to essential equipment, particularly in rural areas across the country.

The handheld portable ultrasound devices are connected to a mobile phone to enable imaging of body organs and tissues at the convenience of a patient, moving away from the bulky and expensive standard echocardiogram equipment.

Long distances

“There has never been a better time to collaborate to strengthen healthcare systems, broaden patient access and build capacity as the world combats Covid-19,” Racey Muchilwa, Head of Novartis sub-Saharan Africa region told HealthyNation.

“We will now be able to significantly shorten diagnosis of heart patients who previously travelled long distances to seek medical help, while making echocardiograms more affordable, particularly in rural Kenya, where we have a vast majority of unmet patient needs.”

The devices will be distributed to a select trained doctors spread across the country at no cost.

Currently, the cost of an echocardiogram is between Sh5,000 and Sh8,500, but with the donated ultrasound devices, costs can be significantly reduced to about Sh1,500, hence improving affordability and access for patients. “We celebrate the incredible milestone that not only equips frontline doctors with cutting-edge diagnosis equipment, but also with the necessary expertise to bring quality care, particularly to the underserved communities in Kenya,” said Seith Abeka, the Acting Managing Director of Unes.

Proper training

As part of the partnership, 115 health professionals have been training in cardiac diagnosis and performing echocardiograms across the country since February 2018, with the programme aiming to reach at least 36,000 patients in rural Kenya every year.

Back in 2017 and 2018, there were only 20 doctors who could do echocardiograms. Out of the 115, Novartis has sponsored 70 doctors, while various county governments or self-sponsorship funded the rest.

With this training, the doctors, most of whom are based in primary levels of care, will have access to crucial imagining of each of the chambers of the heart, measure the cardiac wall thickness and determine the heart function in cases of reduced output.

“Diagnosis is critical for treatment outcomes, particularly for cardiovascular conditions and without proper training, late management could be fatal,” said Dr Fred Bukachi, a cardiologist and Director at the Heart Centre.”The Butterfly ultrasound device can diagnose cardiac conditions ,” he said.

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