By Emmanuel Elebeke

In an effort to curb the high incident cases of Tuberculosis in Nigeria, the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP) and the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN)  have engaged PharmAccess Foundation to design a mobile application for easy screening and diagnosis of tuberculosis cases by private health care providers.

PharmAccess recently redesigned its Mobile Application for Tuberculosis Screening (MATS) in line with the national TB algorithm.  It also took into consideration needs of Community Pharmacists, Patent Medicine Vendors, Traditional Birth Attendants, Faith-Based Organizations and Private-for-Profit facilities who play a critical role in the screening of clients and referring them to designated facilities for diagnosis and/or treatment.

Nigeria is ranked as one of the 14 countries with the highest-burden for tuberculosis (TB) and Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (DR-TB).

In 2019, Nigeria contributed 8% of the total 4.3 million missed cases globally.

It is also estimated that over 70% of tuberculosis cases are missed annually in Nigeria due to under diagnosis, weak surveillance, weak universal health coverage, and inefficient linkage between health care providers.

The Country Director of PharmAccess Foundation, Njide Ndili said her organization is committed to the fight against TB through the deployment of the novel app.

“Our goal in developing the Mobile Application for Tuberculosis Screening (MATS) was to leverage digital and mobile innovations to scale up tuberculosis screening and treatment in order to reduce the disease burden in Nigeria. Working with the Global Fund, the National Tuberculosis Programme, and other key stakeholders, we are delighted to see our Mobile application lead the process to finally eradicate the scourge of tuberculosis in Nigeria,” she added.

The Chief Executive Officer of IHVN, Dr. Patrick Dakum, also commenting on the partnership described the  Mobile Application for Tuberculosis Screening (MATS), launched this month as a game changer in the provision of real-time and online information on progress made by private-for-profit facilities, faith-based organization facilities, patent medicine vendors, community pharmacists, private laboratories and other TB referral entities.

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“The private sector in Nigeria contributed 14% to the total national TB case notification in 2019. It is expected that the MATS app will contribute immensely to the actualization of the goal of the grant which aims to improve public private sector contribution to the national TB case notification from 11% in 2017 to 35% in 2020.

‘‘MATS run on an Android mobile platform, providing real-time information through a web interface. People in communities, who approach private health providers, are screened with standard symptom checklists on the app. Thereafter, appropriate referrals, or sample collection is initiated for diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis.

‘‘All of these are accurately captured and viewed on the app by the private providers and Directly Observed Therapy (DOTs) providers in referral facilities. Since the 1st of June 2020, when MATS was deployed, there has been noticeable increase in efficiency of referrals between facilities and community-based entities screening for TB. More than 19,000 persons have been screened leading to the identification of 1,286 presumptive tuberculosis cases, with 52 TB cases confirmed and placed on appropriate treatment,’’ he said.

The feat is being recorded from 20 states namely Edo, Delta, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Oyo, Ondo, Osun, Ogun, Kogi, Niger, Sokoto, Plateau, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Anambra, Enugu, Rivers, Imo and Abia states. These states are supported by the GF under the TB Public Private Mix (PPM) grant which being implemented by IHVN and NTBLCP as Principal Recipients.

‘‘The evident success of MATS in less than a month since rollout reveals that much more can be achieved when MATS is interfaced with GxAlert (a tuberculosis diagnostic monitoring system), eTB Manager (a patient level electronic medical record system) and the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) for prompt, secure and efficient payment of performance based incentives to private health providers,’’ Dakum added.

Also endorsing the application, The Monitoring and Evaluation Manager of NTBLCP, Dr. Obioma Chijioke-Akaniro said: “The simplicity of the app makes it attractive to the private sector especially as they may not oblige to filling cumbersome tools. Also, the cascade from total screened to identified TB cases is a remarkable way to see the effort put towards finding TB cases. After a few months on the field, we will take stock of what has worked, lessons learned and also make adjustments if need be just as we make further plans for it.”

Vanguard

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