A Mobile Phone-Based Expert System for Disease Diagnosis

A Mobile Phone-Based Expert System for Disease Diagnosis

Olufemi Moses Oyelami (Covenant University, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-123-8.ch011

Abstract

Medicine is one of the areas that has benefited from the use of artificial intelligence since the advent of machine intelligence. Different expert systems for diagnosing diseases have been developed; however, they are either standalone or Web-based systems. This puts a vast majority of Africans in general and Nigerians in particular at a disadvantage, because of computer literacy, accessibility, and usage are very low in this region of the world. Recent advances in the capabilities of mobile phones and increased usage, however, have opened up new opportunities for innovative and complex applications that can be accessed via mobile phones. This chapter presents a disease diagnosis system that can be accessed via mobile phones to cater to the needs of the vast majority of users in places where healthcare is inadequate.
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Background

The World Health Organization (WHO) 2000 report defines a health system to include all the activities whose primary purpose is to promote, restore or maintain health. It embraces all the goods and services designed to promote health, including preventive, curative and palliative interventions, whether directed to individuals or to population (WHO, 2000). According to the WHO report 2007, Africa has the highest verified events of potential international public health concern. Imagine four African countries without any living soul - Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland - all because of deaths to preventable, treatable and manageable diseases (Masimba, 2007). Today, the public health security of all countries depends on the capacity of each to act effectively and contribute to the security of all. Currently, the doctor per patient ratio in Africa is appalling. For example, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with a population of 57 million (roughly equivalent to the populations of the United Kingdom, France and Italy), has only 5,827 doctors compared with France’s 203,000, Italy’s 241,000 and the UK’s 160,000. Cuba with a population of about 11 million, has roughly the same population as Malawi, Zambia or Zimbabwe. But Cuba has 66,567 doctors compared with Malawi’s 266, Zambia’s 1,264 and Zimbabwe’s 2,086. Not surprisingly, Cuba has roughly the same life expectancy (77 years) as developed countries while the average life expectancy for these African countries is 37 to 40 years (Masimba, 2007). Nigeria has an estimated population of 140 million and the ratio of doctors to the population is about 1 to 3,333 (Florence et al., 2007). According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 2010 report, in Nigeria, current life expectancy is 49 years. The density of physicians per 10, 000 population is 4, that of dentistry is .5, 16 for nurses and midwives, and 1 for pharmaceutical personnel. The most common causes of death, in rank order are as follows: Malaria, diarrhea, other diseases, pneumonia, prematurity, birth asphyxia, neonatal sepsis, HIV/Aids, congenital abnormalities and injuries. In Nigeria, people die of minor illnesses that could have been prevented with simple medications and healthy lifestyles (Acho, 2005). The situation is not peculiar to Nigeria but typical of developing nations.

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