The US State Department is working to accelerate practices and thinking around the impact economy—an economy in which government works with civil society and the private sector to create positive social and environmental impact while generating economic value. The following article is part of a series written by participants in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Global Impact Economy Forum in Washington, DC, April 26-27.


Our health is our wealth. But the quality and efficiency of health services, as well as the access to services, can and must be improved—for all citizens, in developed and emerging nations.

Often said to be the “last frontier for information technology,” health care could potentially be the sector with the most to gain from the transformational effects of technology in terms of improving quality, efficiency, and access to care.

HP has long recognized the power of collaboration to drive innovation. And we are putting this belief into practice to drive sustainable and systemic improvements to health systems around the world. In Kenya, for example, where every year approximately 1.5 million infants are born, the transmission rate of HIV from mother to child can be between 35 percent and 40 percent, according to the Kenya Ministry of Health. Early diagnosis and commencement of treatment for infants who are HIV-positive is vital to their survival. The mortality rate for HIV-positive infants who go undiagnosed and untreated can be as high as 50 percent by the age of two.

The Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and the Kenyan government have been pioneers in Early Infant Diagnosis (EID). Since 2010, HP has collaborated with CHAI and the Kenyan government to reduce the amount of time it takes to diagnose an HIV-positive infant and return the results to the doctor and the parent. Technology-driven improvements to the EID process have significantly improved the turn-around time for test results and provided government and health workers increased transparency of and access to information, all of which are transforming the quality, efficiency, and access to care. 

Most important, faster turn-around time in diagnosing means a quicker start at treating those infants found to be HIV-positive. In 2011, approximately 65,000 infants were tested in Kenya through EID, and HP expects to complete more than 70,000 tests in 2012.

An ancillary benefit—though not an insignificant one—is this: success in transforming Kenya’s EID capabilities is inspiring similar efforts elsewhere. The transformation initiative is now being replicated in Uganda and is expected to transform and improve other health programs, such as the surveillance of infectious diseases. 

Today, an EID process that used to take as long as several months to return results, now reliably takes less than 30 days—due to five state-of-the-art HP data centers built with and for the Kenyan government, which connect and enable four national laboratories. Samples are now assigned a barcode, tested, and then recorded in a database. Instead of postal mail, results are sent by text message to SMS-enabled printers in rural clinics. If clinics have Internet access, they also can receive the results by email or access the data online. This new, faster, more efficient and reliable IT infrastructure is allowing HIV-positive infants to receive anti-retroviral treatment much sooner, increasing the likelihood that they will recover and survive.

Built at scale, the EID program is a replicable solution that can change the way public health is delivered—in Kenya and hopefully around the world. For the global health team at HP, it is further proof that a collaborative approach in which corporations, governments, and NGOs share resources and expertise helps solve tough, complex problems. And it shows that innovation can, and must, continue to accelerate, even in the “last frontier of IT.”