Kisumu’s mobile app leads the way in early detection of coronavirus

County governments are having a logistical nightmare of preparing for the coronavirus pandemic against immense public pressure to respond to the crisis.

With restriction on movement lifted, counties such as Kisumu have seen waves of urban-rural migration as residents return home to escape the economic strain in the capital city. This has not only led to an increase in contagion but also put the elderly and vulnerable at higher risk of the Covid-19 disease. 

For example, only a month ago, Kisumu County had only two cases of community transmission. Today, we have reached 46 cases and the figure is likely to go up exponentially.

County preparedness is being measured by the bed capacity, intensive care facilities and ventilators, even as counties scramble to source for personal protective equipment for medical personnel who are increasingly being overstretched.

It is a matter of concern among county officials that with limited resources and an already burdened healthcare sector, the pandemic threatens to cripple the capacity to deliver services.

Worse still, a spike in cases could lead to a rush for hospital care and create a magnet for the virus, putting other patients and health workers at risk. Indeed, most people are living on the edge wondering whether they have already contracted the virus.

This worry alone is enough to affect the quality of life, hence the increasing need for people to know their status.

Kisumu County has come up with a mobile application for self-assessment of the virus, in collaboration with Maseno University.

The simple technology, called Luscii, is based on the experience with management of Covid-19 related cases in Europe. It is currently being used in multiple countries including Ghana, Nigeria, Netherlands and Ireland.

Monitor data

The technology is non-invasive and voluntary, where the residents of Kisumu County are able to monitor their own health data, which can then be interpreted by doctors and form a basis for medical advice.

One needs only to key in their temperature to find out if they have a fever, whether or not it is accompanied by a cough and they will be asked to indicate their breathing rate or if they have a sore throat or muscle pain.

These are some of the obvious symptoms of the novel coronavirus that can give an indication of suspected cases, but are not conclusive until one is tested.

So by giving this and some more information on a daily basis and indicating the severity, we can channel the limited resources to most urgent cases, thus saving on costs and diverting the resources to the care of those affected.

We hope that this service, dubbed CovidConnect will boost our capacity for early detection of suspected cases, testing and containment so that only those who require hospital care actually go to health facilities as well as support home-based care. This enables the county’s health facilities to reserve space for potential high-risk patients.

If we get this right and have the people of Kisumu County on board, and embrace this innovative and unique approach, then we will have a chance of beating the virus and demonstrating that counties need not panic in the face of the unpredicted challenge. We can overcome and offer a model that can be replicated across the country.

- The writer is the governor of Kisumu County