Creating SMS-accessible patient databases
Contact Information: MHEAL-inforMation@umich.edu
Paper documentation is still a primary method of storing patient information throughout the world, and this is especially problematic in developing countries that lack the infrastructure to easily communicate this information to distant locations. Based on our previous experiences in Western Africa, digitization of this data can assist medical personnel in treating individuals and help aggregate data for public health research. Our team has been specifically investigating patient data use within Ghana and conducting a needs assessment to research the validity of this conclusion. We have been communicating and reaching out to contacts within Ghana to analyze the feasibility of implementing a mobile health (mHealth) solution that can effectively digitize and communicate patient information. So far, we’ve discovered that there appears to be a substantial interest in mHealth applications in Ghana, and similar solutions for different problems are in the process of being implemented throughout the country. We are continuing to work on our technical mHealth prototype while looking towards building partnerships within the community in Ghana. We hope to work together with an eventual community partner to better devise a solution to meet their needs. In doing so, we also hope to gain a cultural understanding of the region.
Our project began by looking into diagnosing childhood malnutrition (which is a very wide-reaching and serious problem), but we did a very broad needs assessment and found that the solution to diagnosing malnutrition is actually quite simple and widely used. Instead, we found that keeping track of information was a more serious problem that was just as widespread. Areas with no internet or computer infrastructure are keeping paper records, and these make it difficult to keep long-term records on patients or to compare patient data from area to area.
We plan to utilize FrontLine SMS (a system that allows us to automate the sending and receiving of SMS messages) combined with an executable that will allow us to create a database of information that can be entered by healthcare workers through SMS.