The present day disease surveillance and notification system in Sri Lanka, confined to a handful of diseases, known as Notifiable disease, and reporting large numbers of common cases, is what the British introduced in 1897 as part of the quarantine and prevention of diseases ordinance. This paper based surveillance and reporting system has its shortcomings that the health professionals themselves have voiced. The Real-Time Biosurveillance Program (RTBP) pilot, during the first week of April, interviewed health workers and health officials in Kurunegala District to study the notification and response policy and procedures. These interviews revealed that in some occasions by the time health officials receive the notification to inspect the patient, with the infectious disease, at the patient’s residence, the patient had already died; health workers literally pull their hair trying to decipher the illegible handwriting on the paper forms; they also mentioned that they have to travel long distance from their villages to the Medical Officer of Health (MOH) office to pickup the paper forms with the patient’s information. These inefficiencies and excessive costs can be drastically reduced with ICT; with a technique as simple as a communicating the information via SMS text messages that costs Rupees 0.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s show – The National “Lifelines” – did a news program on the Real-Time Biosurveillance Program carried out in India and Sri Lanka; watch the clip here.