Written by By Mokshana Taufa, CNN Written by Gabriela Baczynska, CNN
She’s called the “Covid Vaccine Card,” a card that’s a shortcut to quicker access to laboratory results. The ID cards offer in-depth coverage of essential diseases, like cholera, typhoid and polio, but are not currently available in 19 countries, including Turkey and South Africa. The ID cards, which will be launched in 14 more countries in 2018, is billed as the world’s first-ever “theatrical portable laboratory.”
One paper ID card identifies users as Cholera, Typhoid, Polio and Adult Malaria, and another indicates they have another “excellent virus” or are entering to gain access to the emergency room. The cards connect users to local labs for quick testing.
“You are basically at a pharmacy on your smartphone, as if you are checking your prescriptions,” says founding CEO Nefertiti Spiridakis. “We are talking about those most vulnerable people that require regular contact with health workers and labs.”
Cholera: Prepare for an outbreak
There are currently no operational emergency laboratories in Turkey, meaning that patients have to be transported to a public health facility, she says.
However, according to Elizabeth, a project partner in the development and implementation of the cards, Turkey does have mobile labs.
This is in part due to the recent decline in media attention around infectious diseases, says Elizabeth. She points to the spreading of the deadly Nipah virus, as a prime example of how absent public awareness is about infectious diseases and their treatment.
“The public health system around the world and public healthcare in general is not really geared towards these communicable diseases. Cholera is not exactly a top priority. Most of the coverage is around bloodborne pathogens or diseases related to HIV or malaria,” says Elizabeth.
In recent years, the work of Elizabeth and her team has been recognized by international agencies, government bodies and NGOs.
Last month, the organization partnered with a Uruguayan social media platform, Tide, to create an interactive map of cholera outbreaks around the world.
“This is just the first point of contact for someone who wants to prevent or in case they have already had a viral fever. They can enter the ID, it will pull up a report that shows where they can get services and get treated immediately,” says Elizabeth.
Measuring the benefits of the clean up
So why does Elizabeth believe there is so much demand for the clean up? In part, the answer lies in a newly developed finding, from his research into breast cancer.
“For those people who are affected by breast cancer and can’t do anything about it, especially in developing countries, they always go to the pharmacy and wait to get the result and either they’re dismissed by a doctor or they can never get the test done,” says Elizabeth.
In a joint study with Princeton University, Elizabeth looked at the patient experience of people living with breast cancer. Their findings revealed that despite the inconvenience and cost, chemoprevention was the most popular option, which results in a decreased risk of recurrence. For those living in remote communities where there was no chemoprevention, the only options were organ transplant or death.
“With cholera, no matter how little access people have, it is actually the option we want to encourage because once someone has a positive result in cholera, they have to immediately get tested, otherwise, you have to wait seven to 10 days for the tests to be results,” says Elizabeth.
Significantly, there is a correlation between local lab tests and lower mortality. In Zambia, where cholera is prevalent, there is a 90% test-to-disease percentage. In Kenya, it is 90% to 100%.
Another important feature of the test is an ability to maintain access by parents and caretakers, says Elizabeth.
In Turkey, many individuals fear that the results of the test can expose them to the risk of arrest, deportation or detention. This could negatively impact future employment prospects.
Still, particularly in light of the world’s shifting sentiment on personal data privacy, the idea of having a personal medical ID card seems an even more impressive concept than it did a year ago.