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Volunteers agree RTBP m-Health will benefit community

The Sarvodaya Suwadana Center Volunteers (Community Healthcare Workers) assembled at the Medical Officer of Health office in Kuliyapitya (Kurunegala District, Sri Lanka). This was a workshop organized by Sarvodaya and LIRNEasia as part of the Real-Time Biosurveillance Program (RTBP), launched in July this year – evidence based healthcare research aiming to evaluate the use of mobile phones for collecting health data and applying statistical data mining software programs for detecting emerging diseases outbreaks. This initiative is to complement the existing national disease surveillance and notification system.

The day long workshop brought together sixteen Sarvodaya Community Healthcare Workers attached to the Suwadana Centers from Kurunegala District, Government Medical Officer of Health (MOH) from four MOH Divisions: Wariyapola, Kuliyapitya, Pannala, and Udubaddawa, and several other resource persons in the field of healthcare and technology to discuss the scope of the RTBP. Participants were given an overview of the present paper based national disease surveillance and notification system, concept of a holistic approach to community healthcare, the RTBP objectives and given a demo of the envisioned mobile phone application, disease surveillance database, and analytical software solutions.

The Suwadana Center Volunteers will be given mobile phones with an embedded java applet capable of recording and submitting syndrome and diagnosis information grouped by gender and age groups. The Volunteers will periodically retrieve the health data that is on paper from the healthcare providers and submit the digitized versions to a central warehouse for Experts to investigate geospatial and temporal patterns in the datasets. Upon detection of unusual patterns the central authorities will use SMS to alert the respective health authorities in the vulnerable regions.

The effectiveness of the software based analysis heavily relies on the availability of quality data. The volunteers are expected to collect the health data from hospitals, clinics, dispensaries, and other healthcare facilities in their neighborhood. Although, government protocols require that registries at these facilities maintain Bed Head Ticket (BHT) information (document containing the vital disease data), it is questionable whether this information is properly recorded and archived. Despite proper approval from the top of the chain, it is also questionable whether these facilities will cooperate in sharing the data with the project as it may seem as a burden stacked on to their workloads. Moreover, the usual practice of the Practitioners is to scrible only the patient’s diagnosis information in the BHT and prescribe treatment. The OPDs don’t necessarily maintain proper syndrome information of the patients in the OPD registries either.

At the end of the workshop the participants were given a questionnaire (Sinhala version) for the project to understand their competency and readiness embrace technology. The results of the assessment will be sharedmin the near future.

The workshop report

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