emocha, a mobile health platform developed and spun out of Johns Hopkins, is launching a new platform to help deliver more effective care to the estimated 16,000 patients diagnosed with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) each year in South Africa.
The miLINC platform is part of a collaborative effort between public health experts at Johns Hopkins, public health nonprofit Jhpiego, emocha, and the South African National Department of Health. Worldwide, there are nearly 500,000 people with MDR TB and treatment is incredibly challenging. Not only do they have to take multidrug regimens for months or longer, many of these patients have poor access to care and limited resources. And that’s further complicated by the risks of further drug resistance related to consistent therapy.
We previously wrote about eMocha’s platform to support direct observed therapy where patients record a video of themselves taking their medications on their smartphone and upload it to the cloud for verification by healthcare professionals. The miLINC platform is a clinician facing platform that aims to connect far flung primary care centers with centralized labs and public health management programs.
Three different apps were developed, each for specific parts of the care continuum. The first is an app designed for the initial point of contact, such as a primary care clinic, where a patient would show up with TB symptoms. This app lets primary care clinicians record patient information, symptoms, and other notes; each case is assigned a unique ID.
The second app is designed for public health workers who track multiple cases. Test results from centralized TB labs are fed into this app, allowing these health workers to efficiently identify patients who are found to have TB and help get them into appropriate TB clinics.
The third app is for the specialized clinicians in the TB clinic and provides a point-of-care decision support tool for management of TB.
Data captured in each of these apps is integrated with a variety of other information sources in a centralized database, providing public health officials with a potentially powerful data source from which to gain insights into the care system as well as the patient population.
While miLINC took more than a year to develop according to emocha CEO Sebastian Seiguer, the work in this group on understanding the complex challenges around managing TB in South African specifically has been going on for years. Dr. Jason Farley, associate professor at Johns Hopkins and co-director of the Center for AIDS research, has years of experience working on MDR TB in South Africa and is leading this effort. And eMocha counts among its founders & advisors several clinicians and researchers who are international leaders in public health efforts combatting TB.
As Dr. Farley puts it, “MDR-TB remains a global public health crisis. Rapid diagnosis must be followed by rapid linkage to care and initiation of treatment. Our smartphone applications, powered by emocha, will reduce the gap between diagnosis and linkage to care.”
Disclosure: I am a cardiology fellow at Johns Hopkins. While I do know and admire some of the emocha’s advisors, I am not affiliated with eMocha and the article was written without input from any outside parties.