Taking your child to the pediatrician is something most of us take for granted. But for families living in low and middle-income countries where there is a lack of medical professionals, a trip to the doctor may seem as out of reach as winning the lottery. This is a major reason why over 3.5 million children under the age of 5 living in these countries die each year from treatable conditions like pneumonia.
As the director of UVM’s Global Health Humanitarian Opportunity, pediatrician Barry Finette, MD, PhD, saw this firsthand and set out to find a solution. Working with physician colleagues and other Vermont technology professionals, he developed a mobile medical assessment platform called MEDSINC (short for Medical Evaluation and Diagnostic System for Infants, Newborns and Children) that allows people who don’t have formalized medical training to determine the severity of a child’s illness and provide early treatments.
Says Dr. Finette, “The goal of our MEDSINC mobile platform is to allow unskilled community health workers, with minimal training, to take the same approach as a pediatrician seeing a sick child. Specifically, MEDSINC assesses the clinical severity of a child’s respiratory, dehydration, infection and nutritional status while also providing the best initial treatment recommendations. We believe this is the best way to increase pediatric health care capacity to regions of the world where such services do not currently exist.”
In order to bring MEDSINC to fruition, Dr. Finette developed the “medical intelligence” part of MEDSINC with his colleague, Dr. Barry Heath. From there, Dr. Finette worked with John Canning and others at Physicians Computer Company of Winooski to help build the prototype and minimal viable product, which has been tested in our Emergency Department and Baird 5 with his pediatric colleagues, staff, and students here at The University of Vermont Medical Center.
How effective is MEDSINC? The clinical severity assessments generated by MEDSINC by non- pediatricians have agreed with a board-certified pediatrician seeing the same patient over 90 percent of the time. Early testing in Bangladesh by community health workers has resulted in similar findings. Plans are underway to expand the use of the tool to monitor other conditions.
“As pediatricians, our goal is to improve the health and wellbeing of children everywhere,” says Dr. Finette. “Hopefully this will ultimately lead to fewer deaths due to preventable diseases for these children.”