KENYA— In order to advance positive maternal and child health outcomes, Jacaranda Health, has been using an artificial intelligence (AI) enabled two-way short messages (SMS) platform.

The mobile digital tool dubbed Promoting Mums Through Pregnancy and Postpartum Through SMS (PROMPTS) identifies and refers mothers to proper care when there is a risk of complications.

According to Javan Waita, Head of Programs, “PROMPTS AI triage system understands queries and sorts through them to determine urgency. If it spots a question that suggests a high-risk situation or danger sign it moves it up allowing the clinical officers to provide prompt responses.”

Javan noted that since 2016, PROMPTS has been able to reach over 2.3 million mums with its messaging platform with a geographical scope of 21 of the 47 counties in Kenya.

Originally, PROMPTS solely provided one-way texts, but when women began responding that the organization recognized the potential for improvement.

They saw the chance to enhance their AI triage system by incorporating data that would enable it to identify risks and complications, as well as address general pregnancy-related inquiries from women.

This shift transformed PROMPTS into a dynamic two-way conversation, with instant replies that empower mothers throughout their pregnancy journey while simultaneously gathering valuable information to continually enhance the quality of their services.

At both healthcare facilities and within the community, pregnant women can easily enroll in the PROMPTS program using their mobile phone numbers.

Upon registration, they receive nudging text messages that promote healthy habits and actions.

Furthermore, expectant mothers can ask questions, with a dedicated help-desk agent available to provide answers.

If the AI detects any potential risks or danger signals from the questions asked, the mother is promptly directed to the nearest health facility.

Additionally, the mother’s digital file is transmitted to the healthcare providers in advance, ensuring seamless continuity of care.

So far, over 1 million mothers across 21 counties are enrolled in PROMPTS and it has partnered with over 930 hospitals providing access to care to Mothers and encouraging care-seeking behavior among them.

We acknowledge a number of mums possibly do not have phones or are unable to read Swahili, we are working on an interactive voice response which will allow mums to interact with the platform through voice,” Javan said.

PROMPTS in real-world settings

The AI triage feature proved to be a salvation for Josephine Mucoro, a resident of Bungoma County.

Josephine had a tumultuous pregnancy that gave her several health scares.

She was introduced to PROMPTS at Chwele Sub County Hospital, following a recommendation by the clinic nurses.

“I received one message saying that if my legs swell and there is no dent when I press them, I should not worry, but if there is a dent, I should go to the hospital,” she said.

“One Thursday on my way home from church I felt intense pain in my abdomen that I thought would go away but the message I got from PROMPTS recommended going to the hospital that’s when I decided to call my friend to take me to the hospital,” she narrated.

Once they arrived at the medical facility, her blood pressure was found to be high, and she was immediately referred and admitted into urgent care at Chwele Hospital her condition was managed and treated, and her baby was safely delivered.

Another beneficiary of the PROMPTS tool Violet Okuta from Kakamega county is grateful for the program for saving her life despite suffering a miscarriage,

Okuta said that if it wasn’t for PROMPTS, I might’ve waited until morning, but my husband messaged that I was bleeding a lot, and in minutes PROMPTS referred us for an urgent check-up.

“It was a lifeline. I miscarried but was safe in the hands of nurses. We’ll continue using PROMPTS as we try for another baby,” Okuta said.

Why we need maternal healthcare support

According to World Health Organization (WHO) every two minutes a mother loses her life while giving birth.

In Kenya, the maternal mortality rate is 414 for every 100,000 live births, an alarming number compounded with the fact that only 42 percent of births are attended by skilled healthcare personnel.

Access to clinically accurate information is a significant barrier for many mothers, preventing them from making informed choices regarding when and where to seek care during and after pregnancy.

Further, a lack of awareness about potential complications or the need for urgent medical attention many times leads to delays in seeking proper care, resulting in severe consequences for both the mother and the baby.

“The inspiring story behind our digital health platform, PROMPTS, a tool that’s already empowering countless women and transforming maternal and newborn health,” Javan summarised.

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