A nonprofit organization called Pesinet is using mobile phones and a basic java application to change the way that children are treated within the healthcare system in Mali. Though the system is basic enough--healthcare agents provide weekly checkups on children and relay the weekly results through a java-enabled application on their mobile phone to a doctor who then reviews the results--- it's strikes at the core barriers which prevent children from receiving healthcare provision in a timely fashion; The organizations founder, Ann Roos-Weil, identifies the three core barriers as: 1) access to healthcare, in many rural areas in Mali families simply do not have access to healthcare resources. 2) family finances, often times the cost of healthcare itself is prohibitively expensive. 3) An attitude towards healthcare and illness itself, often times families in Mali delay treatment until the illness is extremely advanced. As Roos-Weil puts it in rather stark terms: "In Sub-Sahara Africa you have a very, very high child mortality rate. […] In Mali, where our project is based, one child out of five dies before the age of five. What we realized is that they’re mostly dying because they don’t go to the doctor or the healthcare center early enough."
Creatively enough, the Roos-Weil's solution was to devise a system which addressed each barrier individually. Through the Pesinet program, healthcare agents visit villages on a weekly basis and report on the health of a child to a trained physician through their mobile phones. Moreover, the Pesinet system provides a micro-insurance program in which a family pays a monthly 1 euro fee to participate. In effect this covers the cost of the healthcare agents visit, a visit to the doctor if it is deemed necessary and half the cost of medication should any be prescribed. Lastly, the weekly healthcare agent visits prevent families from waiting too long in the case that a child falls violently ill.
Mobile phones have enabled the program to reach many more children than would have otherwise been possible. According to Roos-Weil "What we found useful in mobile technology is mostly a case of efficiency in the way health workers do their work. Because basically, while using mobile technology you can ensure that the agent is having proximity to families, so she can do the home-based check-up while seeing a lot of children in a short time, which allows the doctor to follow up on a great number of children. Mobile technology, in our case, […] allows a model whereby we can touch a great volume of children while using just one doctor."
To learn more about Pesinet, click here.