Above, MamaOpe team in a focus group discussion with caregivers, village health team members, and opinion leaders.
by Olivia Koburongo, inventor and co-founder of MamaOpe Medicals Limited
“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to sell it.” -Steve Jobs
This approach was one that my team and I used to develop MamaOpe, a wearable jacket that leverages machine learning and automatically interprets common signs of pneumonia such as respiratory rate and lung sounds to improve the accuracy of pneumonia diagnosis. In partnership with Resilient Africa Network and the School of Public Health at Makerere University, we conducted a need-finding survey in Uganda’s Iganga District among potential users of our technology and key informants of the MamaOpe diagnostic aid. The aim was to gather insights on the acceptability of the MamaOpe device as well as to understand issues related to the design and composition of the system. We wanted to bridge the gap between technology and consumer, and to deliver our technology economically to our target end users. To determine MamaOpe’s suitability for healthcare settings, the team evaluated different factors affecting the design and uptake of MamaOpe among health workers, nurses and clinical officers. Health worker and caregiver knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding pneumonia management in children aged 5 years and younger were also assessed.
Olivia demonstrates the MamaOpe application to a clinical officer at Nawandala Health Center III.
This need-finding survey in the field provided tremendous insights to the MamaOpe team. We learned that, in addition to poor health-seeking behavior on the part of caregivers in the Iganga District, pneumonia diagnosis is still rudimentary and relies on health worker experience to identify signs and symptoms. Health workers treat and administer antibiotics to any child exhibiting these symptoms. We found that one branch of the Iganga District Health Center consistently saw more severe cases due to delayed presentation to the health facility - caregivers were diagnosing and medicating with painkillers and anti-malarials prior to seeking care. With this new information, we saw a need to develop a guideline for the proper use of the MamaOpe jacket. However, our insights did not come without challenges. Some senior health workers were against the idea of village health teams adopting the MamaOpe device and feared that it might be misused to make unnecessary prescriptions, thus sabotaging the referral process upwards. As for the design of MamaOpe, we adjusted the size of the jacket for easy dressing and comfortability. MamaOpe’s automation, multi-modal components, and easy-to-read interface were appealing features to the Iganga District health workers.
The need for better pneumonia diagnostic tools inspired the creation of the MamaOpe jacket, and starting with the user experience was critical.
About the author: Olivia Koburongo is an inventor and co-founder of MamaOpe Medicals Limited. She is a research fellow with the Resilient Africa Network and Vilgro Kenya. She has a BSc (Hons) in Telecommunications Engineering and also holds a certificate in Good Clinical Practice (ICH-GCP).