International Israeli-based NPO sets a positive pulse for children’s cardiac care in Tanzania

A medical doctor engaging with his medical team via a tablet device.

Tanzania, September 2020 – Congenital heart disease (CHD) is an enormous problem in low and middle-income countries, and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where children who are afflicted may struggle to receive the proper treatment. The journal Frontiers in Pediatrics reports that there is an estimated 500,000 children born in Africa with CHD each year, with a major proportion in sub-Saharan Africa.

Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is the leading cause of acquired heart disease and is an ongoing concern in sub-Saharan Africa, affecting especially the younger population. Proper treatment is essential to improve the outcomes for these children, as both conditions contribute substantially to morbidity and mortality during infanthood and childhood. However, treatment for conditions like CHD and RHD can be prohibitively expensive for families without governmental or humanitarian organisations being involved.

Microsoft Israel has been working closely with the entire healthcare industry to provide new cloud-based solutions to meet the hospitals and HMO’s specific needs, with activities including everything from collaboration to Data, Machine Learning and AI solutions. The solutions provide better collaboration, facilitate remote work, making information accessible for healthcare workers, patients and citizens, and innovating the entire healthcare system. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a focus on providing remote work as well as remote patient care for healthcare facilities.

With a footprint spanning over 60 countries across the Middle East and Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and the America’s, Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) has treated more than 5,000 children for congenital and rheumatic heart disease. Founded by Dr Ami Cohen in 1995 at the Wolfson Medical Centre in Holon, Israel, SACH aims to improve the quality of paediatric cardiac care for all children; creating local centres of competence in developing countries. Working with the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute (JKCI) in Tanzania, this Israeli non-profit organisation is reaching new frontiers in the treatment and care of children across the country.

In Tanzania, the organisation has deployed two main modes of operation to support the diagnosis, treatment and recovery of children who are admitted to the JKCI. After diagnosis at the Institute, selected children and their caregivers are flown to the Wolfson Medical Centre in Israel for final diagnosis and subsequent surgery. In these cases, the Medical Centre’s Legacy Heritage Children’s Home, a fifteen-minute drive from the Centre, provides both counsel and accommodation to the children, escort nurse and their caregivers during this time. To date, 65 cardiac paediatric patients have benefited from this programme.

For treatment in Tanzania, SACH also sends surgeons, nurses, surgeons, anesthesia, doctors and perfusionists to the JKCI for a months-long deployment to fast-track the surgical treatments for children most in need. SACH also provides scholarships for nurses, surgeons, anesthesia, doctors and perfusionists from JKCI who are going to Israel for further study.

Through these collaborations, SACH and the Wolfson Medical Centre realised that there was an opportunity to develop a new approach based on digital transformation to better support JKCI. The partnership with Microsoft through the 4Afrika Initiative, initiated the development of an exciting and innovative model for SACH operations going forward. Through remote participation via Microsoft Teams collaboration tools including video call, document collaboration and the security of data, the teams envision Israeli surgeons being able to collaborate remotely and in real-time with surgeons at the JKCI, having access to a full suite of cutting-edge technology solutions at their fingertips during surgeries. The Microsoft Israel team has worked closely with the Wolfson Medical Centre to deploy the solution, implement security capabilities and provide technical guidance.

“Once implemented, this innovative approach will allow us to help deliver more precise diagnoses, and will help to limit the number of children needing to fly to Israel for treatment. On the social side, there are also the added benefits for the children at JKCI, who will be able to enjoy the comforts of familiar surroundings and family networks in their home country,” says Dr. Lior Sasson from the Wolfson Medical Centre.

“Our surgeons are in constant contact with our Israeli counterparts for consulting, coaching and mentorship. We are excited that this partnership with SACH and Microsoft will allow more precise diagnosis using remote, real-time digital collaboration tools that will immensely benefit the children in our care. We are stepping boldly into medical collaboration in the digital era, and we look forward to being at the leading edge of this innovation,” Prof. Mohamed Janabi Executive Director of JKCI.

“As Microsoft, we are encouraged by the collaboration and drive shown by the Wolfson Medical Centre and the Jakaya Kikwete Medical Institute in the area of paediatric cardiac treatment. Being part of their digital transformation journey is a real privilege, and we are confident that their efforts will serve as a template for similar partnerships in other countries, paving the way for innovation that drives collective action,” concludes Gustavo Raiter, Business Development Lead, Microsoft 4Afrika.

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