Afya Research Africa uses Integrated Biometrics’ Columbo to Deliver Data-Driven Healthcare to Rural Kenya

Rugged, low-power fingerprint scanner helps solve the challenge of establishing identity for healthcare services in remote regions with limited electricity or internet service.

Modern, data-driven healthcare requires reliable infrastructure to function. How does an organization establish a low-cost digital healthcare system in a country struggling to provide electricity and other basic utilities to its rural population, let alone digital networks and internet access?

This challenge is particularly acute in Kenya, a country covering a vast and highly varied geographical area with limited rural infrastructure and extremely high rates of population growth. Integrated Biometrics’ Columbo FBI certified single-print fingerprint scanner helped Afya Africa Research (ARA) develop a robust, unique, and affordable solution.

ARA operates a network of 28 health care clinics across rural Kenya. They co-own these facilities with the local communities to encourage shared resources, participation, and accountability. Their goal is to provide high-quality primary and secondary healthcare using data-driven best practices to maximize quality of service while minimizing cost, fraud, and waste — all delivered within walking distance for its customers whenever possible.

The ARA healthcare services network uses ARA’s own STONE® HMIS (Healthcare Management Information System) software running on inexpensive, royalty-free Linux computers. The system’s data transfer uses cellular service with limited bandwidth rather than unreliable wired connections. Data storage relies upon local networks covering multiple villages. This mesh-based infrastructure supports daily operations as well as data redundancy when information cannot merge immediately with the master ARA database.

The key to this layered system is a Personal Universal Unique Identifier (PUUI). ARA selected biometric fingerprint scanning as the fastest, most easily digitized, least expensive means to give each patient a non-transferable PUUI. Every participant gains individualized care while protecting their privacy, which also encourages patients in cross-border areas or refugees to come forward for healthcare.

Fingerprint scanners from multiple previous vendors failed to work as hoped, either delivering inadequate resolution for accurate identification or lacking compatibility with international standards for image quality. Power consumption became another concern. These scanners required either wired connections to a unreliable electrical grid or large bulky battery packs. Neither alternative proved practical for the extreme environmental conditions prevalent in the under-developed areas across rural Kenya that ARA most wanted to reach.

ARA turned to Integrated Biometrics’ Columbo scanner for their solution. Columbo uses Integrated Biometrics’ patented light emitting sensor (LES) film to image fingerprints. LES sensors require very little power to operate. They are exceedingly tough, resisting dust and dirt and delivering accurate scans for dry or dirty fingers under bright sunlight as well as extreme temperatures.

Afya Africa Research and Integrated Biometrics Columbo

FBI certification is another Columbo advantage. ARA now has confidence that all scans meet strict international standards for image quality. This groundwork helps ensure compatibility with future national healthcare or identity databases.

Finally, Columbo ships with a variety of cable lengths. This seemingly trivial feature carries tremendous benefit in rural environments where facilities must blend into local infrastructure, and not all patients can comfortably enter into a Western-style examining room.

“We were not going to be able to deliver on what we wanted to do,” said Moses Ndiritu, Director of Stone HMIS, Afya Research Africa. “We spent money, we used other devices, and without that particular device (Columbo), we wouldn’t have been able to create a unique identification system using biometrics in such difficult places as where we work.”

ARA’s fingerprint-based PUUIs deliver data-driven best practices for medical services that meet the unique demands of Kenya. Consistent verification of enrolled individuals leads to ongoing improvements in healthcare quality of service, even in parts of the country far removed from major cities.

The system saw 35,000 individual patients in 2017, most of whom had more than one visit. ARA facilities operate as far as 580km from Nairobi, the capital, yet every patient’s data becomes part of ARA’s research programs and continuing efforts to enhance quality of care.

“ARA’s ingenious, creative solution to healthcare in rural Kenya shows how powerful identity can be when applied to improving people’s lives,” added Stephen Thies, Chief Executive Officer of Integrated Biometrics. “We are proud that Columbo provided the key element for their program and look forward to supporting similar initiatives around the world.”

For more information on Integrated Biometrics, LES technology, or the company’s comprehensive line of rugged, low-power, compact mobile fingerprint scanners, visit www.integratedbiometrics.com or email sales@integratedbiometrics.com. Contact Afya Research Africa at https://www.afyaresearch.org/, (254) 729 161 340, or admin@afyaresearch.org.

About Afya Africa Research (ARA)
ARA is unique. By working in complementary areas of healthcare – providing care, health technology, and research — Afya Research Africa (ARA) focuses its programs on sustainable solutions that tackle cost, and quality issues associated with healthcare services in Kenya. We work with communities to set-up and manage medical centers, develop health technologies to help providers succeed, and study our work to improve clinical services and public health interventions. We believe in building sustainable, evidence-based health systems that harness the strengths of communities and use locally appropriate health technologies to support the provision of care.

In 2016, we grew the Ubuntu Afya network from 11 medical centers to 28 across Kenya, further developed STONE HMIS® and deployed it in all 28 sites, and supported monitoring and evaluation for three health and development programs. We are proud of all that we have accomplished and energized for 2018 and beyond. We believe we have a strong base on which we can continue to improve our work and that quality care can be provided to rural Kenyans in a sustainable way.

About Integrated Biometrics
Integrated Biometrics, LLC designs and manufactures FBI-certified fingerprint sensors for law enforcement, military operations, homeland security, national identity, election validation, social services, and a wide range of commercial applications. The company’s patented light emitting sensor technology enables lightweight scanners that outperform traditional prism-based devices in size, power consumption, portability, and reliability. Identity management solutions providers, government agencies, and corporations around the world rely on Integrated Biometrics’ products to enroll and verify individual identity quickly and accurately, even in remote locations.