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Re-energising the Fight Against TB at the 7th TB Conference

Published 2022-12-13 12:21:49

 

Although tuberculosis (TB) is preventable, it remains one of the leading causes of death in South Africa. With global targets focussed on reducing TB deaths by 95% and cutting new cases by 90% between 2015 and 20351, the 7th TB conference was aimed at revitalising the fight against one of Africa’s longstanding plagues. This conference was the first opportunity for Qode Health Solutions (Qode) to exhibit in person since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and the team came prepared to demonstrate several innovative digital tools to help TB programmes achieve their goals.

Throughout the conference, key opinion leaders spoke on a number of topics, including the importance of health information systems. To achieve the 2035 targets, effective data collection and analysis are imperative for guiding decision-making and improving the implementation of TB control measures. This opinion was shared by representatives from diverse entities, including local implementing partners like Right to Care, as well as international donors like the Global Fund.

Another prominent topic of the conference was the adoption of case identification as a key strategy in the fight against TB. With one of the highest TB burdens in the world, South Africa requires innovative and cost-effective approaches for screening, diagnosing and reporting TB. Given the low sensitivity and specificity of the WHO-recommended four-symptom screening tool for TB, new tools are required to improve screening efficiency. Qode presented two digital solutions that were developed to address the shortcomings of community screening and case identification.

The Lynx-HCF TB Careplan provides community- and facility-based TB programmes with a total solution for TB screening and reporting in a single platform. The solution integrates chest X-ray and computer-assisted diagnosis artificial intelligence (CAD AI) capabilities into the electronic medical record system, which is also used for client registration, collection of relevant health information, and clinical workflow management. The CAD-AI tool identifies up to ten abnormalities on the chest X-rays, including those suggestive of TB. Findings are summarised on a report generated by the system to guide clinical decision making. The system has been implemented across high TB burden districts in Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, and Western Cape provinces in South Africa. More than 110,000 x-ray TB screenings have been conducted using the system, with the CAD-AI software identifying TB-suggestive lung abnormalities in nearly 10,000 chest X-rays. This solution has reduced human errors and decreased the time required to perform a chest x-ray screening in a community setting to approximately ten minutes, thereby increasing programme efficiency and reducing barriers to screening. A set of PowerBI dashboards that display key programme metrics and update in near real-time were developed in Qode’s Knowledge Center big data solution and embedded within the Lynx-HCF platform.

Cough analysis is another cost-effective and feasible screening strategy for identifying TB cases. During the conference, a team from the University of Stellenbosch, Qode, and Helfie launched the Helfie app,  which is an AI-based smartphone solution that allows individuals to screen themselves for TB anywhere, anytime, and at a minimal cost. The aim of the Helfie app is to promote early detection of TB and enable people to seek medical assistance before they are severely ill. This reduces morbidity and mortality, contains the spread of TB, and alleviates the burden of costly and complicated treatment required for those with advanced disease. Screening data captured through Helfie will enable public health authorities to track the spread of TB, identify hotspots, and allocate resources proactively.

More than 250 individuals were screened for TB at the TB conference using the Helfie application, with none screening positive for TB. The app drew interest from delegates as a potential digital tool for community health workers to utilise during screening processes. Helfie is solely distributed by Qode within Africa.

In addition to showcasing our TB-orientated solutions, Qode exhibited in conjunction with our partner company that focuses on EdTech and FinTech solutions for the health sector. Our group of companies was responsible for scanning participants into continuing professional development (CPD) events to ensure that attendees received all CPD points due to them. In collaboration with our partners, including LTE Medical Solutions, Think TB, and FPD, our EdTech division exhibited integrated CPD solutions that assist medical professionals with professional development.

Since the inception of the TB conference in 2008, the fight to bring TB under control in South Africa continues to mobilise communities. And while the pandemic might have eroded progress towards prevention, the strategic partnerships formed at this year’s conference will look to fast-track progress towards TB targets to end TB forever.

 

Learn more about our Lynx-HCF solution: https://qode.healthcare/products/qode-lynx-hcf

Learn more about our Knowledge Center solution: https://qode.healthcare/products/qode-knowledge-center

Learn more about our EdTech division, PSS: https://ps.studio/

Learn more about the Helfie TB screening module: https://www.helfie.ai/tuberculosis

 

References

1World Health Organisation (2014). Global Strategy and Targets for Tuberculosis Prevention, Care and Control after 2015. 1st ed. [online] WHO, p.7. Available at: https://www.who.int/tb/strategy/End_TB_Strategy.pdf?ua=1

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Qode Health Solutions is a private company registered in South Africa with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CPC). Qode's majority share holders is vested in Non-profit organisations and fall part of one of 4 group technology-based companies located in Gauteng.