The number of days between diagnosis and treatment of certain diseases can have major consequences on outcomes for people with serious medical conditions such as HIV and tuberculosis. What if we could drastically reduce that time, and help people get the life-saving treatments they need faster?
Health center in Niassa province, Mozambique. VillageReach photo by Denis Onyodi
That’s exactly what VillageReach is working on with SampleTaxi — an innovative approach to transporting laboratory samples first piloted in Mozambique in partnership with the Ministry of Health and technology provider Logistimo.
How does it work? Think Uber for healthcare. But instead of transporting people, SampleTaxi transports critical medical samples from remote health clinics to centralized laboratories for testing. Similar to a smart phone-based ride-hailing service, the program uses a combination of mobile technology, human drivers and an electronic chain of custody to efficiently move lab samples from point A to B and track their progress along the way.
The program just wrapped up its first year of operations with 30 health facilities in two districts in the Sofala Province of Mozambique, and we are encouraged by the results.
Samples that arrive faster at labs means they can be tested sooner, and results shared more quickly with local health workers, who can then administer necessary treatments as soon as results arrive. In our pilot, we transported a total three sample types:
1) Early Infant Diagnosis (EID), which tests for HIV in infants so that they can be given anti-retroviral therapy right away;
2) Viral Load (VL), a test that determines whether and how HIV treatments are working so changes can be made to regimens if needed; and
3) Tuberculosis (TB), to confirm TB and test for drug resistance. Sample quality is impacted by both time and temperature, making fast transportation critical to accurate test results. It is also important to diagnose TB quickly since untreated TB can spread easily.
Using the SampleTaxi system, medical specimens were delivered to laboratories in a quarter of the time they typically arrive. During our pilot from July 2018 to March 2019, samples arrived on average in just 5 to 6 days, as opposed to 20 to 30 days using traditional transport methods (See Fig. 2). Lab samples also moved more efficiently from health clinic to testing facilities, with vehicles traveling on average half the distance to get to their final destination.
In Mozambique, where prevalence of tuberculosis and HIV is high and case detection can be a challenge, early detection and treatment is crucial to prolonging quality of life and slowing the spread of disease. We are learning that programs like SampleTaxi can make a big difference in speeding up the delivery of critical lab samples for testing, and ultimately help close the gap between detection and treatment of deadly diseases.
We hope to continue and expand upon these efforts in Mozambique, given the potential benefits for this model to be applied elsewhere in the health sector. If you would like to learn more, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.