The major issue that our company addresses is the unusually high incidence of sickness and death resulting from lack of access to qualified doctors in rural Africa. This chronic health workforce shortage means that rural health facilities typically refer nearly all (up to 85%) of their patients, thus flooding larger health facilities with patients who present with uncomplicated conditions. This not only causes physician fatigue, drug stock-outs and low quality of care at referral hospitals, it also encourages bribery and corruption within the health system, further impeding already limited health access. For instance, at less than 0.01 doctors per 1,000 people, the World Health Organization estimates that physician shortage in Uganda alone leads to over 120,000 deaths annually resulting from either lack of access to a qualified health worker, or poor quality of service for those who eventually gain access. Indeed, sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s highest maternal mortality rates, which average 500 deaths per 100,000 live births. Further, frontline health workers operating rural health clinics receive little opportunity to hone their clinical decision-making skills over time due to low patient volumes, little interaction with other medical professionals, and running under-equipped facilities.
Over its 3-year existence, Kaaro Health has demonstrated that optimising the time and efficiency of the available health workforce and proactively making their services remotely available in rural, hard-to-reach areas can lead to a dramatic reduction in the incidence of sickness and death in these areas. Thus we have created a telehealth platform that helps health clinics in Uganda’s rural areas to gain remote access to the few available doctors, whom they can’t otherwise afford to hire. Our platform consists of: i) A rapidly growing network of 71 energy-autonomous container clinics which are deployed in Uganda’s 28,000 rural villages with 2,000 or more inhabitants but which do not have a health facility within a 10km radius; and ii) A software platform through which our doctors deliver remote, life-saving diagnoses and prescriptions to patients attending rural clinics, and continuous medical education to frontline nurses and technicians serving these clinics. Since 2017, our rural clinic network, which serves about 1,100 patients each day, has already handled a combined total of 1,110,000 patient visits. Of these, over 106,000 were pregnant women living with HIV, over 40,500 of whom had potentially complicated pregnancies for which our intervention prevented development of serious postnatal complications and transmission of HIV to infants, and enabled early diagnosis of HIV in infants.