A mobile phone triage tool used to assess critically ill children in Malawi has the potential to strengthen diagnosis capacity in primary care and reduce health system costs through fewer, more timely and more appropriate referrals for specialist or emergency care. New research, published today in the BMC Health Services Research journal, compared diagnoses made with the tool in local health centres with a clinician’s findings. The study hopes to help improve identification of those who are seriously ill, so they get help faster.
Primary health centres (PHC’s) are often the first point of contact with the healthcare system in many low-income countries, including Malawi. They are often very busy, so finding ways to ensure critically ill children are seen quickly could save lives.
Dr Nicola Desmond, a medical anthropologist at Malawi-Liverpool Wellcome (MLW) Trust,
said: “A high proportion of presentations at the primary level are for paediatric services. Therefore, some childhood deaths could be prevented if critically ill children are quickly identified, treated, and referred to a secondary level hospital. However, there are many challenges in providing high-quality care at this level, including long wait times, high numbers of patients and erratic consultation systems.