Apr 14, 2017, 10:25 AM
An average of 750,000 cases are reported every year of child deaths caused by pneumonia. These numbers are also astonishing because this data accounts for only sub-Saharan African countries. The death toll is a by-product of the absence of immediate and adequate treatment, as well as austere cases of antibiotic resistance, due to the increased use of antibiotics in treatment. Also, misdiagnosis of pneumonia occurs, since its prevailing symptoms are similar to that of Malaria.
Introduction to Pneumonia
Pneumonia is characterised as a lung infection. It is usually associated with a cough, fever, and difficulty in breathing. It can easily be treated at home for most people. However, in scenarios that involve a patient that is elderly, an infant, or suffering from other illnesses, cases can be severe. Other symptoms include mucus, nausea, chest pain, short breathing span, and diarrhea.
Diagnosis and treatment of Pneumonia
Diagnosis of pneumonia is usually conducted by a doctor via a physical exam. Here the heart rate, oxygen level, and general breathing state of the patient is checked. These tests verify if the patient is experiencing any difficulty in breathing, chest pain, or any areas of inflammation. Another possible test is an arterial blood gas test, which involves examination of oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood. Other tests include a mucus test, a rapid urine test, and a chest X-ray.
The treatment of pneumonia is usually carried out by prescribed antibiotics. This is effective when the pneumonia is caused by bacteria. The choice of antibiotics is determined by factors such as age, type of symptoms, and the severity of the illness. Further treatment in the hospital is suggested for individuals with chest pain or any form of inflammation.
Medical smart jacket
The introduction of the medical smart jacket was birthed after Brian Turyabagye, a 24-year-old graduate in engineering, was informed that his friend’s grandmother died after a misdiagnosis of pneumonia. Malaria and pneumonia share similar symptoms such as fever, chills experienced throughout the body, and respiratory problems. This symptom overlap is one of the leading causes of death in Uganda. This is common in places with poorer communities and lack of access to proper health care. The use of a stethoscope to observe the sound of the lungs during respiration often misinterprets pneumonia for tuberculosis or malaria. This new technology is able to better distinguish pneumonia based on temperature, sounds exerted by the lungs, and breathing rate.
A collaboration between Turyabagye and a colleague, Koburongo, from telecommunications engineering, originated the prototype Medical Smart Jacket. It is also known as “Mama-Ope” kit (Mother’s Hope). It includes a jacket and a blue tooth device that gives the accessibility for the patient’s records regardless of the location of the doctor and health care device. This feature is found in the iCloud software of the jacket.
The team is working towards creating a patent for the kit. Mamaope could be distributed across the globe. This kit ensures early diagnosis of pneumonia due to its ability to recognise respiratory distress sooner.
The benefits of the medical smart jacket are to prevent recurring cases of pneumonia misdiagnosis. The layout of the human anatomy will help doctors to properly access the medical status of the patient. In hope of more funds in the future, “Mama-Ope” can be distributed to more countries in Africa and around the world that pose the risk of deaths by pneumonia.
In rural areas, where education and health care is less accessible, a possible solution is working with social work and social facilities in educating families. This should be free to the public. Also, sources of media can be used to raise awareness.
A possible challenge to health facilities is covering the cost of the medical jacket. Constant electricity and internet connection will be needed. Also, delivering tests in communities that are not developed in terms of amenities might pose problems. A mobile unit could be created to bring the technology to the rural vicinities and at the same time, educate individuals about new developments and options.
Further development would look at distinguishing pneumonia caused by fungus, bacteria and viruses. Also, taking a blood test might be facilitated before the smart jacket to verify if an autoimmune disease plays a role in pneumonia symptoms.