M-TIBA deploys bulk SMS system to help in fight against Covid-19

Mobile phone health care provider M-TIBA in collaboration with CarePay, PharmAccess and Safaricom organisation has developed a bulk SMS service used to send a series of targeted Covid-19 health information messages.

The system has so far sent messages about managing their health and safety to over 627,000 families.

PharmAccess Foundation Country Director-Kenya, Isaiah Okoth, says, “SMS is a powerful tool in getting Covid-19 messages to Kenyans. It is direct, immediate and can be integrated with other platforms. At PharmAccess we are in regular discussions with the Ministry of Health and other healthcare bodies about ways to use the M-TIBA platform to strengthen our Covid-19 response.”

In a press statement to newsrooms, Okoth said that the system has over four million registered users nationwide and is being made available to County Governments.

“The Communications Authority (CA) of Kenya puts the number of active mobile phone subscribers in Kenya at over 53 million, which translates to a SIM penetration level of above 112 percent,” explained Okoth.

He added that M-TIBA and the Kenya Healthcare Federation (KHF) have recently rolled out an SMS platform to help the security services verify the identity of essential health workers moving around during lockdowns.

“A security officer can send a free SMS with an ID number to shortcode 20503. This will generate an instant SMS message verifying that the individual and – if applicable, the vehicle – are on official business. It can all be done in minutes and at no cost to either party,” said Okoth.

CarePay Board Chairman John Ngumi says, “We know that mobile platforms and applications are playing a major role in our response to Covid-19. CarePay is working on projects to share targeted Covid-19 messages, as well as generating instant intelligence through surveys and identity verification shortcodes. More widely, we are supporting the development of Covid-19 monitoring applications and scaling telemedicine offers from healthcare providers.”

According to the statement, several tier-one hospitals in Kenya now have a telemedicine service or remote care call centre, to help people access to care without making unnecessary hospital visits. Targeted SMS are being used to promote these services and appointment or treatment reminders. M-TIBA also offers remote treatment patient verification, treatment initiation and payments.

CarePay Kenya Managing Director Moses Kuria says, “Even though we are all in an extreme situation, SMS communications on COVID-19 still needs to be legal, proportional and compassionate. In a pandemic situation, we still need to be incredibly mindful of people’s concerns about data protection, privacy and over-communication. It is vital that data is being stored securely and we have the correct consents in place. Both PharmAccess and CarePay comply with the Kenya Data Protection Act and the European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation.”

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