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Mobile app helps monitor TB patients remotely

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Technology makes treating tuberculosis possible at your fingertips.

Public health officials report success, after the launch of a mobile app to monitor a patient's progress and virtually help treat TB.  
"It's very easy for patients of any age," Chima Mbakwem, TB project manager said.

All you need is a phone with a front facing camera to download the app Emocha, a HIPPA-compliant mobile app that's a pilot program at Guam's Department of Public Health and Social Services.

"She is in the comfort of her home," Mbakwem said of a potential patient. "We're not there, but we review this to make sure she takes the medication."

Traditionally, a public health worker sees a patient one-on-one over a hundred times during their nine-month treatment. Yet, making personal visits house-to-house can be time-consuming and even dangerous for his team, Mbakwem said.

"They are exposed to situations they're not basically trained to handle because they have to go to people's home, people are angry at them, people are mad at them," Mbakwem said. "You know, neighbors are looking at them funny, so using the video DOT was a way to cut away some of the social issues that affect treatment."

Video Direct Observed Therapy is a creative solution to their staffing shortage.

Currently, there's only one field worker to service the entire island.

With support from his department head, Emocha was installed in Aug. 2018.

Qualifications are strict and missing three doses gets you kicked out of the program to ensure accountability.

Now, 35 TB patients are registered on the app.
Janet Florig, contact investigator, said working patients can now prerecord videos of them taking their medicine.

"It's very convenient for them for those who don't have rides or have a challenge with the financial aspect of coming here, you know the gas, they're saving on gas," Florig said. "So it's cost-effective time efficient."

Live from home, patients could use the app anywhere, simply recording a video of them swallowing pills. Public health officials then view those videos in their office.

"Using the video direct observation therapy has proven over time to also allow the patients to have control over how their medication is being taken," Mbakwem said. "And for the region, I think it's important for all the other islands to know what we are doing in Public Health.

Guam is the first island in the region to implement this technology. Health professionals are now reviewing other ways to expand video direct observed therapy for the treatment of other illnesses.

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