Today, hundreds of women in Kenya will have their first screening for cervical cancer using Tel Aviv-based MobileODT’s  Enhanced Visual Assessment (EVA) System, which needs no infrastructure but a mobile phone and Internet connection.

“We have donated 20 of our EVA systems to health providers in Nyeri County, Kenya, for the Ministry of Health’s nationally sponsored screening camp. On February 4, to mark World Cancer Day, they plan to screen over 700 women for cervical cancer in a single day,” MobileODT CEO Ariel Beery told ISRAEL21c earlier in the week.

Women lining up for cervical cancer screenings in Kenya. Photo courtesy of MobileODT
Women lining up for cervical cancer screenings in Kenya. Photo courtesy of MobileODT

“Simultaneously, on the other side of the globe, in New York, Curtis Peterson, our VP for global health, will be speaking at the World Cancer Day  panel at the United Nations organized by the permanent missions of the United States and the Republic of Zambia to the United Nations, Every Woman Every Child, and Cervical Cancer Action,” says Beery.

Peterson tells ISRAEL21c that a video will be shown documenting the courageous journey of Michele Baldwin, a woman who faced cervical cancer, followed by a discussion of what can be done to broaden access to screenings.” This is part of World Cancer Day’s #WeCanICan initiative for cancer awareness and screening.

Piloted successfully in the United States, Haiti, Guatemala, Botswana, Kenya, Nepal and Mexico, EVA is an advanced optical technology that pairs with a smartphone camera to capture and securely transmit biomedical images for diagnosis and analysis. This makes cervical cancer screenings possible in places lacking more sophisticated medical infrastructure. The company provides training and support.

“No woman should die of cervical cancer,” says Beery. “If caught early, cervical cancer can be prevented, and existing early-stage cervical cancer is treatable. MobileODT is committed to bringing mobile cervical cancer screening technology to all women, everywhere.”

‘Cervix selfies’ in Kenya

Less than a year ago, MobileODT began exploring opportunities in Kenya, and is now working with primary healthcare providers in clinics run by the government, by private nurses and by NGOs.

“Private nurses provide half the healthcare in Kenya, so in the past two months we’ve started to devote more energy to them although it’s a difficult market to crack because each nurse is like a small business owner with his or her own clinic,” says Peterson.

These nurses have few resources to make capital investments, so after confirming interest in its product, MobileODT launched a program enabling the nurses to rent the device on a monthly basis.

A local nurse learning to use MobileODT before last year’s screening camp in Kenya. Photo courtesy of MobileODT
A local nurse learning to use MobileODT before last year’s screening camp in Kenya. Photo courtesy of MobileODT

“They’re getting a lot of support from us,” says Peterson. “We don’t just hand over the device but have an ongoing relationship. Our incentive is to make sure they use the technology and that it meets their needs to help patients. For this to be worthwhile, we help them educate the community about why screenings are important.”

MobileODT’s “cervix selfie” has proven popular, says Peterson. “We find women love to see their cervixes. After the screening, the nurse uses the images to show the patient what is happening inside her own body, whether she is healthy or unhealthy, and it’s a transformative, empowering experience rather than an opaque clinical process.”

The ability to see the images as the nurse explains them leads more women to agree to follow up on results, Peterson says. “When we use the system to educate the patient they have a much better understanding of the situation. The visual really facilitates the conversation.”

Screenings in Afghanistan

MobileODT is now providing its device to obstetrician/gynecologists in Afghanistan who have limited access to proper infrastructure and continuing medical education, says Peterson. Rotary International spearheaded this partnership.
“It’s incredible that a company based in Tel Aviv is supporting the medical practice of physicians based in Afghanistan to make sure women have proper access to screening,” says Peterson.

Training was arranged in an unusually roundabout way: Fary Moini, an Iranian-American member of the La Jolla Golden Triangle Rotary Club in California, came to Tel Aviv for training and then went to Turkey to train Afghani physicians who had convened there.

“We had these lovely Skype conversations with the Afghani doctors about the technology,” says Peterson, “and we discovered their need for more clinical training. We focus on how to use our device and not typically clinical aspects. But now that they are using our system, they can have clinical supervision from any of our partners in the world because our device collects and shares images securely.”

“It is amazing that such a small medical device can save the life of women who are our mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts,” Moini wrote to fellow supporters of healthcare projects in Afghanistan. “We as Rotarians are very proud to be the first organization who introduced this modern, simple and magical device to your hospitals and your team of doctors, who are going to be the first in Afghanistan to start using Mobile ODT.”