A research group based at KEMRI-Wellcome Trust – Kenya and Oxford University have developed a free smartphone app for training health workers called LIFE, which was launched during the Kenya Paediatric Association 2019 annual conference in Mombasa, Kenya.
The Life-saving Instruction for Emergencies (LIFE) smartphone app uses interactive 3D simulations of life-threatening emergencies to train healthcare workers to save lives. The simulations take place in a virtual 3D hospital where users have to find the correct pieces of medical equipment to manage an emergency and then use this equipment to carry out a sequence of life-saving steps. At the end of the simulated emergency, if they have carried out the steps correctly, the LIFE system awards a digital Continuing Professional Development (CPD) credit that is registered with the Kenya Paediatric Association (KPA).
There is a desperate need for new methods to train the growing numbers of healthcare workers around the world, particularly for managing emergencies in children. In Africa, approximately 1 million children die in their first month of life and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that two-thirds of these children could be saved if the healthcare workers who look after them had adequate training and resources.
Currently available face-to-face training programmes for healthcare workers are expensive and are associated with knowledge decay over time, requiring frequent refresher training which only adds to the cost and inconvenience. To overcome these challenges, LIFE has been designed as a freely available app that all healthcare workers can download onto their own smartphones. The LIFE app reminds users on their phones when they need to refresh their training so that they can quickly test their knowledge to ensure they are always ready to act in an emergency. The LIFE app issues CPD credits each time they refresh their knowledge so that healthcare workers are rewarded with professional recognition for keeping up-to-date.
The development of the LIFE app was initially funded by contributors to a crowdfunding campaign, including the Skoll Foundation, HTC, and Medicins Sans Frontieres, with matched funding from the Wellcome Trust. The LIFE team went on to win funding from the Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenge for Development (funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, DFID, KOICA and Grand Challenges Canada). In 2018, LIFE won the VR for Impact award from HTC at the World Economic Forum in Davos to develop a Virtual Reality version of the app.