Advanced Imaging


Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: January 12th, 2011 09:49 AM CDT

Telemedicine for Chubby-Cheeked Kids

Penn State students combine inspiration and innovation with cost-effective technology to bring healthcare to rural East Africa
Khanjan Mehta, Penn State University
A Kenyan woman uses a spirometer to check her lung capacity. Penn State students made the device from a piece of PVC pipe and a vibration sensor attached to a DAQ card for less than $10. New devices cost $50 and up.
A Penn State student works with a Kenyan family at a Mashavu kiosk. He will log onto the Mashavu server and create (or update) a patient profile, which includes questions on contact information, social history and medical history.
A woman gets her blood pressure taken. For many rural people in East Africa, Mashavu is the first time they’ve had any healthcare assessments or treatments.
A young boy shows the card with his healthcare vitals. Mashavu’s goal is for him, and all East African youngsters, to become healthy and chubby-cheeked.

By Barry Hochfelder

A cell phone connected to the computer via a USB data cable—tethering—handles data transmission. The phones are connected to the internet through a mobile gateway using General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), which allows cell phones to receive e-mail, browse the web and upload data. It’s available across East Africa via Zain, Vodacom and SafariCom. The Mashavu portal features an intuitive user interface with secure login to verify identity and protect patient privacy.

With Mashavu, Mansali, the Kenyan woman in our earlier example can get the care she and her children need. The kiosk is set up in her village, with a trained operator on duty. She pays a minimal amount (approximately $1) and the operator logs onto the Mashavu server and creates a profile, or in the case of returnees, updates the profile, which includes questions on contact information, social history and medical history.

After completing the background information, the kiosk operator takes the patient’s vital signs in the following order: blood pressure, temperature, height, weight, heart/lung sounds, blood oxygen saturation, flow rate/lung volume. The patient receives a paper with the results and the operator submits the information to the Mashavu website. Within four hours, a local doctor logs onto the site and views the patient’s profile. Once the doctor submits his or her recommendations on the website, the kiosk operator is immediately notified and relays the response to the patient. If necessary, the patient can follow-up with a local doctor. (The reviewing physician also can send the information and recommendations to the nearest clinic.) Additionally, medical professionals can review community health trends or possible epidemics in the area. The information can be shared anonymously with local officials to take the necessary steps.

National Instruments (Austin, Texas) is involved with numerous socially relevant projects, says Sharad. “It’s a grassroots effort,” he explains. “Our academic field engineers worked with Prof. Mehta to provide the necessary hardware and software for his student team to design products. The USB-6211 is a simple DAQ device, with very simple architecture.”

Mashavu’s objectives are improving access to pre-primary healthcare, active community health education, socio-economic development through micro enterprise, and transforming students in the United States and Kenya into entrepreneurial global citizens.

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