New smartphone app to train medics on saving lives

A new app to tackle emergency health situations has been launched.

The app developed at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI – Wellcome Trust) will train health workers to avert life threatening situations through the use of interactive 3D simulations.

Dubbed Life-saving Instruction for Emergencies (LIFE), the app was developed in collaboration with the Oxford University launched on Thursday during the ongoing Kenya Paediatric Association annual conference in Mombasa.  

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The simulations take place in a virtual 3D hospital where users have to find the correct pieces of medical equipment to manage an emergency and then use this equipment to carry out a sequence of life-saving steps.

At the end of the simulated emergency, if they have carried out the steps correctly, the LIFE system awards a digital Continuing Professional Development (CPD) credit that is registered with the Kenya Paediatric Association (KPA).  

There is a desperate need for new methods to train the growing numbers of healthcare workers around the world, particularly for managing emergencies in children.

In Africa, approximately one million children die in their first month of life. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that two-thirds of these children could be saved if the healthcare workers who look after them had adequate training.  

Currently available face-to-face training programmes for healthcare workers are expensive and are associated with knowledge decay over time, requiring frequent refresher training which only adds to the cost and inconvenience.

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To overcome these challenges, LIFE has been designed as a freely available app that all healthcare workers can download onto their own smartphones.

The LIFE app reminds users on their phones when they need to refresh their training so that they can quickly test their knowledge to ensure they are always ready to act in an emergency.

It issues CPD credits each time they refresh their knowledge so that healthcare workers are rewarded with professional recognition for keeping up-to-date.  

The development of the LIFE app was initially funded by contributors to a crowdfunding campaign, including the Skoll Foundation, HTC, and Medicins Sans Frontieres, with matched funding from the Wellcome Trust.

The LIFE team went on to win funding from the Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenge for Development (funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, DFID, KOICA and Grand Challenges Canada).

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In 2018, LIFE won the “VR for Impact” award from HTC at the World Economic Forum in Davos to develop a Virtual Reality version of the app. Healthcare workers around the world can now download the LIFE app for free.

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Kenya Medical Research InstituteKEMRIOxford UniversityWorld Health Organization