M-Health: Mobile phones to enable health professionals to collect data

M-Health: Mobile phones to enable health professionals to collect data

By Hailu Teklehaimanot:

A pilot project to use mobile phones to enable health professionals to collect data, have it analyzed and give feedback is to be launched next week at a projected cost of around 370,000 dollars. The project spearheaded by Technology for Change International, a non-governmental organization, aims to use 1,000 mobile handsets distributed to health professionals in four regions -Amhara, Tigray, Oromia and Southern – to collect data on pregnant women.

The data will be collected and sent to a central server, whose algorithm will analyze and send an alert to the data collector regarding any complications, according to Naoll Addisu, executive director of the organization. “The alert lets the health professional know what complications may arise which helps to take appropriate measures,” he told Fortune. “The other component of the system is a knowledge data base which the professionals can use to refer in cases of complications.”

Also included in the project is service, called txt4Enat, where expecting mothers can subscribe to SMS information sent twice a week with tips and information on pregnancy issues. The first phase is to have 100,000 pregnant women subscribe for the service, according to Noell, who is also the managing director of iConcept, a technology consultancy firm.

“The service is going to be free,” he told Fortune. “We are discussing with ethio telecom to make the bulk SMS cheaper or free.”

The company, which was established by seven professionals from different fields, has raised about 60pc of the cost of the project for the first year in labour skill, equipment as well as seed money, according to the executive director.

Although the system has not fully developed yet, it has progressed up to 80pc. The system is developed based on open source software, those that are available for free, such as FrontlineSMS and customized for the function needed as well as language, according to Noell.

FrontlineSMS, is a tool developed in 2005 to empower small, local NGOs by leveraging basic tools already available- computers and mobile phones. It enables instantaneous two-way communication on a large scale.

There is already software that is already developed by the company, which has the same name, has a similar system developed called FrontlineSMS Medic.

However, the algorithm is being developed in conjunction with the Addis Abeba Institute of Technology, said Noell.

This project, which is planned to be carried over for three years by the organizations, is scheduled to be launched next week and presented to representatives from the Ministry of Health (MoH), Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MoCIT) and ethio telecom.

Although the project was approved by the MoH, feedback from relevant people in the sector is needed before the project is fully developed, according to Noell.

“Once we get their feedback, we expect to fully start the project in two months,” he told Fortune.

Addis Fortune/19/10/2011

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