GHI Seed Grant improves emergency care

Read more: How visiting African scholars use mobile medicine in Africa.

In an emergency, physicians need the right information. Right now.

Thanks to a Seed Grant from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute (GHI), a new app, called Essential Medicine Guidance, is giving doctors critical information when they need it.

“The app is a way to affect more than just one person at a time, and we are seeing the impact.”—Mohammed Dalwai, app collaborator, South Africa

The app was introduced in July in the Western Cape province in South Africa, and, within a month, 150 to 200 emergency health care providers were accessing it regularly for location-specific information about everything from what medicines are available to a hospital’s clinical guidelines to manage specific conditions.

“For a better quality of care, doctors need to make the right decisions and need access to the right information when they need it,” says Yaseen Khan, a South African collaborator on the project. “The app has really given our medical professionals a point of care tool.”

GHI Seed Grants support UW-Madison efforts to launch new global research projects and make them competitive for sustained external funding. Seed Grants allow researchers to reach across disciplines for collaborators and make many projects possible. The awards have supported efforts from empowering women in agriculture to supporting palliative care.

Based on their Seed Grant projects, recipients have published research papers, presented talks and received further government and private funding to continue their work.

“The GHI Seed Grant process allows faculty and staff to take well thought out, multi-disciplinary research proposals from the “theoretical” to the “practical,” says Janis Tupesis, from the Department of Emergency Medicine and a project collaborator. “For our project it meant that we had the ability to develop and implement a project management strategy that included clinicians, educators, researchers and IT professionals.”

The app team used background research on IT usage trends in the Western Cape to write the new and innovative software program and implement it locally. The goal is to scale it up for regional, national and international use.

“Without the support of the GHI Seed Grant program, this project simply would not have been possible.”—Janis Tupesis, Graduate Medical Education liaison to GHI.

Tupesis collaborated with Khan and Mohammed Dalwai, co-founders of the The Open Medicine Project South Africa (TOMPSA), who have also developed mobile triage apps to help Doctors Without Borders and others more quickly determine which patients need care most urgently.

GPS allows the Emergency Medicine Guidance App to identify where a health care worker is and to provide critical care guidelines, drug formularies, on-call specialists, referral protocols and more for that specific health care facility. If the health care worker moves to another hospital, the app will deliver guidelines for the new location.tompsa-banner-emergency-medicine-guidance-app

“A lot of care is logistical, and we capture that with the platform and relationships with key information providers,” Khan says. The app gives physicians details about clinical questions that can change depending on local policies and styles, the burden of disease and resources available at each site.

App also benefits public health

With GPS, the app can also collect information to improve public health. By knowing where health care workers are and what they’re looking for, the app team can track disease outbreaks or gaps in service, Tupesis says. By tracking user data, it might become obvious that one hospital may need more training in labor and delivery, while another may be facing an acute outbreak of fever or abnormal bleeding.

Just as multiple authors provide content for Wikipedia, hospitals, medical schools and professional organizations are supplying location-specific information for the Emergency Medical Guidance App. TOMPSA is vetting information for accuracy.

The men hope to have full content available for all of South Africa within six months.

“For us, it’s really about being able to make that change and affect the lives of other people,” Dalwai says. “The app is a way to affect more than just one person at a time, and we are seeing the impact.”

By Ann Grauvogl/ December 4, 2016