CallforLife Digital Application Motivates TB Patients in Karamoja sub-region to take medicine regularly

Isiro Peter is a 61-year-old retired civil servant from Amuria district. For the past three years, Peter has been receiving care for the chronic renal disease at Matany hospital. In August 2020, Peter developed a cough with chest pain and some difficulty in breathing. He reported these symptoms to his local health facility in Amuria district from where he was referred to Matany Hospital on suspicion that he had contracted the dreaded COVID-19 disease.

“I was in bad shape. I was admitted as a COVID-19 suspect and placed in the isolation unit. After a week, I was informed that I did not have COVID-19 but instead had TB. I was surprised because I never expected to have TB. I was started on TB treatment and discharged two weeks later. I continued to take my medicine from home but with a lot of difficulties. I thought the drugs would kill me”.

A month later, amidst his fears about TB treatment, he received a telephone call from an officer who introduced himself as Patrick.

“Patrick invited me to be enrolled on a digital platform known as CallforLife®, which would provide me with education messages about TB, answer any questions about medicine side effects, and remind me to take my medicine on time.”

CallforLife®(CFL), is a digital adherence support intervention being piloted by USAID Program for Accelerated Control of TB in Karamoja (PACT Karamoja) in Matany hospital and four other high-volume primary health care facilities in Moroto and Napak districts. Since September 2020, 104 TB patients have received daily medication reminders, weekly health education messages and monthly clinic appointment reminders. Messages are sent at the patients’ preferred time and in their language of choice. The system also offers support for symptom management. TB patients also use this digital intervention to submit a symptom alert to the health worker at the registering facility for any medicine side effect experienced. Trained healthcare workers provide advice on symptom management or return to the health facilities if warranted.

“Being enrolled onto the CallforLife® digital platform was the beginning of a new life for me,” says Peter. He relies on the CallforLife service as one would on a friend. His wife and children know the call time, which is 9pm every night. They prepare his dinner early and remind him to eat before call time. My wife often says to me, “Eat your food fast, your “friend” is about to call.”

Before CallforLife, Peter felt that the TB medicines were harming his body but healthcare workers on the CallforLife service have reassured him about the safety of these medicines and encouraged him to adhere to all his medicines. Peter has never missed a single dose of his TB medicines.

‘Whenever I receive advice through the call, it makes me strong and motivates me to take my medicine. I have been advised to test my family members and none of them has developed TB symptoms. CallforLife® reminds me of my appointment date at the hospital even when I am about to forget.’.

Peter introduced CFL to other TB patients at Matany who appreciate the new service. He says CFL is good for everyone.

‘I am grateful and pray this support continues until I complete my treatment. I feel motivated to battle two diseases. They asked me many questions at first, I felt they were handling me like a baby.’ the callers have become my friends. Today I am happy to have met the unknown caller finally’,