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AI-Powered Digital Tools for Symptom Assessment and Disease Followup in Tanzania

Intelligent symptom assessment, next steps recommendations, surveillance, and digital follow-up for COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases

Photo of Megan Allen
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The COVID-19 Africa Response System (CARS) is a digital system that provides automatic symptom assessment, next steps recommendations, monitoring by health authorities, and digital follow-up care for COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases. 

What is the need are you focusing on?

The COVID-19 outbreak was characterized as a pandemic by the WHO in March 2020 and poses a serious public health risk. The response by African governments to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 has been strong and varied. These responses are vital; African countries often face significant and unique challenges that could increase the overall impact of the disease. Chief among those challenges is the potential strain on the already-fragmented healthcare system since a large number of people will likely need medical attention at the same time. In locations with limited resources, the ability to handle a sudden influx of patients could be detrimental to successfully curbing the epidemic. In addition, it has been pointed out that the number of confirmed cases in Africa is still low due to a lack of testing of suspected cases for COVID-19. Regardless of testing capacity, we need to be able to identify patients who are likely positive for the virus and recommend the appropriate course of action.

Which type of submission are you sharing?

  • Sharing an actual pivot your organization has already made

Describe the business pivot or adaptation in 3-4 sentences.

In response to the current pandemic, we are extending our digital health tools into a new system called CARS: the COVID-19 Africa Response System. This system allows us to perform large-scale risk assessment of patients with respiratory distress (incl. COVID-19) through a mobile/web tool, as well as supports monitoring/surveillance of the outbreak by health stakeholders. As people self-assess their risk, we are able to identify those with high risk of COVID-19 and provide them with appropriate next steps. If needed, we can provide automated follow-up services to keep track of the progression of their illness and provide at-distant care for patients who are self-isolating/quarantining, further reducing the burden on health resources. Patients who need a healthcare facility are routed to the nearest location using GPS coordinates and the respective facility is alerted ahead of time to prevent potential COVID-19 patients waiting in line and spreading the virus.

Do you plan to implement this solution?

  • Yes

Describe the impact that this solution will create in the world.

We build digital health tools to improve health outcomes and increase equity in health. Fundamentally, we believe that digital tools can give patients and healthcare providers superpowers, allowing them to make better decisions. CARS impacts the world by: 1. Reducing the burden on healthcare systems by - Providing guidance to individuals with mild symptoms about self-quarantining and automate monitoring and follow-ups (providing them with best information on how to take care of themselves and reducing hospital transmissions) - Performing pre-clinic triage for patients visiting health facilities, allowing for special measures at the health facilities on arrival 2. Supporting government decision making by providing near-real time updates reflecting the prevalences at a national level, and 3. Ensuring governments and health stakeholders are able to provide updated health information to their citizens

What is the name of your business or organization?

Our business is called Inspired Ideas LLC.

What does your business/company do? Whose needs does your business/company address? Who do you serve?

Inspired Ideas builds intelligent, integrated health assistants for healthcare providers and patients in East Africa. We leverage advances in technology and data science to build smart tools that augment the capacity of lower-cadre healthcare providers in rural and urban areas, as well as provide symptom assessment tools to the general public. We are based in Dar es Salaam, and primarily serve the Tanzanian market. You can find more about us at You can find more about our work on Dr. Elsa and the CARS system at

What is your profession?

I am a Health Technologist for Inspired Ideas in Tanzania.

Where are you located (country)?


Where are you located (region)?

  • Eastern Africa

What industry is your business/company in?

  • Healthcare/Medical
  • Technology

How many people does your business/company employ?

  • 0-10

How old is your business/company?

  • 2-5 years old

Which classification describes your organization/business?

  • Business

What kind of stakeholders and partnerships are needed to pursue this solution?

  • Funding- Grants
  • Funding- Investment
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- NGOs
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Private Sector
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Government

Do you need help building partnerships and finding partners?

  • Yes

If Yes to the above, please share 1-2 sentences describing the specific help you desire.

We are always seeking additional partnerships and collaborators who are passionate about improving health outcomes, particularly across Africa. Any support in recommending potential partners or sharing about our work to larger audiences is appreciated.

What do you think are the main barriers to implementing this solution?

The main barrier to implementing this solution is ensuring that it complies with all regulations and requirements from the Ministry of Health and other governmental bodies across the country. We are committed to working in partnership with these players, and also recognize that there are processes that have to be followed.

If you are currently working on a pivot, what have you learned so far?

In times of crises, it is critically important that things move quickly. We’ve learned that we are capable of utilizing our resources to develop and deploy new services to support the global pandemic more quickly than we thought possible. In addition, we have learned that there are other ways we can leverage existing infrastructure to implement our technology. For example, we are able to take advantage of the massive network of (newly trained) community health workers and empower them with our tools in order to improve decision making even at the last mile.

Are you aware of any open source efforts, hackathons or other collaborative efforts related to your solution? Are you participating in these efforts?

Yes, we receive information about open source efforts and hackathons through the startup community in Tanzania and across the African continent. We recently participated in an ideathon called Africa vs Virus, and we will join some of the upcoming hackathons in the country as well.

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1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Michelle Florian

This technology seems very well-built and ready to make an impact! It seems that you have developed a very user-friendly interface that provides critical information. I am curious to learn how the data is obtained in order to track COVID-19?