The Ministry of Health in the Democratic Republic of Congo is taking a bold step forward in the fight against malaria—a disease that continues to impose enormous social and economic costs on communities and businesses in the country. Through an innovative initiative with Ivanhoe Mines, a Canadian extraction company operating two projects in the DRC, and Chemonics International, a U.S.-based international development company, the National Malaria Control Program (PNLP) now has a new tool to outsmart the disease: the Fionet™ system.
In July 2015, the Ministry of Health in the DRC and Ivanhoe Mines signed an agreement with Fio to roll out the Fionet system, with the help of Chemonics, to support activities under the PNLP in 300 healthcare facilities over three years. The public-private collaboration was celebrated with a launch event on August 31st in the southern town of Kipushi.
Fionet is a solution developed by Fio to help frontline health workers improve the quality of care that they deliver to individual patients while automatically capturing data that is critically needed to strengthen health systems as a whole.
Fionet works with mobile companion devices for health workers, including Fio’s intelligent diagnostic device called the Deki™ Reader, to provide step‐by‐step guidance through their routine activities. The Deki Reader also automates the analysis of rapid tests for multiple health conditions and helps health workers detect and correct errors so that their case management decisions and records are based on accurate diagnostic results.
Case records and other data captured by health workers are immediately available to healthcare managers and other authorized stakeholders using the Fionet web portal. Fionet can also be used to remotely monitor and interact with health workers and to update the workflows and other tools that they use. This allows for better management and oversight of interactions with patients and community members.
A collaborative approach to a collective challenge
When detected early and accurately, malaria is an entirely treatable disease.
This innovative collaboration between Fio, Chemonics and the Ministry of the Health will provide workers at Ivanhoe Mines’ development projects, their families and communities in the provinces of Haut Katanga and Lualaba with access to a higher standard of frontline malaria care. At the same time, data captured through the project will help provincial and national governments strengthen disease surveillance and the management of malaria control activities in the DRC.
The first phase of the Ivanhoe-sponsored Fionet initiative in the DRC involves training health workers from 54 healthcare facilities in two established provincial health zones that provide services to a total of approximately 300,000 residents living in 40 urban centres and 330 villages.
The second phase will expand the initiative to an additional 246 health facilities, to be selected by the Ministry of Health.
Each of these facilities will receive a Deki Reader to help health workers improve the accuracy of diagnostic testing and the quality of care they provide to patients, while making data immediately available to public health officials through the Fionet web portal.
A sustainable vision for combating malaria in the DRC
Public health officials and healthcare providers will be the ultimate drivers of this collaborative initiative. Fio and Chemonics have helped the Ministry of Health construct a team of Master Trainers at the provincial level to build technical capacity among health workers who will be using the Fionet system.
Through the “Know for Sure” campaign affiliated with the Ivanhoe-sponsored project, the PNLP will benefit from using the Fionet system to:
- help local community members “Know for Sure” whether they or a family member have malaria
- help healthcare managers “Know for Sure” that local health workers are providing the most effective malaria care by giving them remote supervision tools to identify and target areas for improvement
- help improve the quality and usefulness of data accumulated from suspected cases of malaria so that the Ministry of Health can “Know for Sure” how to plan future programs to eradicate the disease
The communities served by the 300 healthcare facilities covered through the Ivanhoe-Fio agreement signed with the Ministry of Health will be the first to experience the impact of this initiative. Sponsorship from Ivanhoe Mines will ensure that activities reach these strategically targeted communities throughout the three years of the project, with the ultimate aim to incentivize further commitments toward the fight against malaria in the DRC.
Other companies operating in the DRC who wish to join the “Know for Sure” campaign are welcome to sponsor the expansion of Fionet to other sites, or the integration of complimentary elements into the campaign, such as malaria prevention, community education or other intersecting health programs.
The Ivanhoe-Fio project will lay the foundation for effective use of the Fionet system by health workers at the community level and public health officials responsible for managing frontline malaria services. With renewed support through contributions from additional collaborators, the Fionet system can continue to aid the Ministry of Health in its efforts to improve evidence-based malaria control and improve the care of patients suffering from this entirely preventable, treatable and stoppable disease.