In mitigating the effect of COVID-19 spread, Damu-Sasa, a Kenyan e-health startup secured US$20,000 from Villgro Africa in December 2020.
Damu-Sasa operates an innovative functional solution in blood service information management.
The startup supports Kenyan hospitals by sourcing blood donations, while also assisting in blood screening, blood products preparation and inventory as well as management of blood transfusion.
The model operated Damu-Sasa also supports the mobilization of blood donors while also providing them with their donation history via digital access.
We had a chat with Dr Matunda Nyanchama, Executive Chairman at Damu-Sasa who took us through how technology has been deployed to support blood donation.
A background on how Damu-Sasa started?
Damu-Sasa the system for blood services management under its parent company, Damu Sasa System Ltd, came as an idea after the terrorist attack on Westgate in September 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya.
This unfortunate event revealed the lapses in blood donations as the airwaves was filled with calls for blood despite the apparent donations that were made. This action called for underlying questions to be answered:
Is it that there is no blood? If NO, then why and how can the situation be improved? If the blood is available, then where is it?
Is it that the patients requiring blood are more than those willing to donate? And how come some people only donate blood during national disasters?
Following this development, innovators had to carry out a series of research, however, they discovered that the need for blood was even more acute during periods of normalcy than disasters in the country.
The findings show that the major afflictions requiring blood included expectant mothers, individuals with anaemia, haemophilia, sickle cell disease, cancer and accident victims.
These innovators, Francis Kilemi and Aaron Ogunde who the Co-founders of Damu-Sasa were part of a government internship programme where they had a chance to pitch test the Damu Sasa idea, where the reception received and subsequent piloting at the largest teaching and referral hospital in the region helped validate the idea in all, even as further ideas for improvement were realized.
How does Damu-Sasa work?
Matunda explained that Damu-Sasa is an end-to-end cloud-based blood service information management.
It is intended to generate value and create efficiencies at every stage of the blood services value chain.
These stages include:
- blood donation, including making efficient appeals
- tracking units of blood that is collected until it is transfused
- locating and sourcing blood from users of the system across the healthcare sector
- inhouse hospital/facility use for inventory management
- generation of haemovigilance reports (including transfusion reactions, cold chain violation, usage – by what ailment, by what blood products, which blood groups, in what quantities, etc.)
- e-learning for system users.
How do you intend to achieve your mission and vision?
Matunda stated that by working with stakeholders, Damu Sasa ensures:
- a full appreciation of the problem and the extent to which it impacts patients
- demonstrating the value of the solution in solving the problem
- a reliable and timely information to enable continuous improvement.
“The foregoing is undergirded by abiding by the values that drive us as an organization, i.e. to deliver value in solving the blood problem in the country.
This is by ensuring we maintain a patient-centred approach in building and enhancing the technology.
Ensuring there is a continuous learning, research and development, constant pursuit of mutually beneficial partnerships, observing utmost good faith and due diligence, and ensuring that we are responsible corporate citizens.
Ultimately, we are about helping in saving lives with respect to the issue of blood availability.”
Blood management and challenges around the African continent?
From our research as Damu Sasa System Ltd. we have found the greatest barrier to quality blood transfusion services in the continent is that services are managed manually, on paper.
This manual tracking presents major problems as:
- blood units are not effectively tracked and hence expire before they are used; the result is waste of a scarce but essential commodity and thus laying undue expense on healthcare systems
- there is ineffective blood donor recruitment, a challenge that is compounded by cultural barriers; the result: not enough supply of blood when and where it is needed
- lack of reliable data to inform blood services management and potential policy interventions; the manual systems make it hard to collate reports across the healthcare system as it is an arduous task
- like most sections of the healthcare system, blood services lack sufficient financing and effective management.
“On the whole, these challenges lead to avoidable deaths. On the technology front, Africa lags the rest of the world and has yet to fully embrace and fully exploit the innovation culture.
The continent’s people are teeming with ideas but which ideas do not find expression in implementation.
Many African countries lack policies on innovation, rarely funds such ideas and are very poor at promoting even those innovations that have reached maturity.
It is often the case that foreign solutions get preference over locally designed (and perhaps more apt and affordable) solutions.”
Any other thing about Damu Sasa that is worth sharing?
As Damu Sasa System Ltd we are cognizant of the challenges Africa faces with healthcare (in general) and blood services, in particular.
These challenges according to Matunda will be solved through an incisive focus on a supportive policy environment that includes an embrace of new ideas and solutions and support (including financing, testing and adoption) for innovations with a view to improving the sector.
“On our part, as an organization, we have substantially lowered the bar of entry to use of Damu-Sasa. It is the reason we have components of the system available to users on a complimentary basis.”
For instance, facilities can use the capability to mobilize donors and locate blood from the healthcare ecosystem without charge.
“We have embraced continuous improvement and the COVID-19 pandemic situation sent us to the drawing board to assure that donors could schedule appointments with donations centres and do so while observing guidelines pertaining to the pandemic.”
The issue with blood problems in Africa requires partnerships where each party brings in their expertise.
“It is for this reason that we have partnered with (among others) the Ministry of Health (Kenya) through the Kenya National Transfusion Service – KNBTS, the UNFPA (that deals with mother and child issues), Villgro (a healthcare startup incubator), the Standard Group (for media and communications), and Amref Health Africa (with extensive networks across the continent.”
Featured Image: Dr Matunda Nyanchama, Executive Chairman at Damu-Sasa
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