By Meluse Kapatamoyo
Smartphones are set to outplay traditional paper survey methods in the gathering and transfer of disease information. Data collected with smartphones in a recent study has shown to have fewer errors and is more quickly available for analyses than data collected on paper, Kenya's Ministry of Health has revealed.
A survey by the Kenya’s ministry of Health and researchers working for Kenya’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the use of smart phones was cheaper than traditional paper survey methods used to gather disease information.
“Collecting data using smartphones has improved the quality of our data and given us a faster turnaround time to work with it. It also helped us save on the use of paper and other limited resources” said Henry Njuguna, M.D for Sentinel Surveillance Coordinator at the Centers for Disease.
Findings showed that of a total of 1,019 paper-based questionnaires collected compared to the same number of Smartphones collected, only 3 percent of the surveys collected with smartphones were incomplete, compared to 5 percent of the paper–based questionnaires. In addition Smartphone data were uploaded into the database within 8 hours of collection, compared to an average of 24 days for paper-based data to be uploaded.
Results also indicated that the cost of collecting data by smartphones was lower in the long run than paper–based methods. For two years, the cost of establishing and running a paper–based data collection system was approximately $61,830 compared to approximately $45,546 for a Smartphone data collection system. The fixed costs incurred when the systems were first set up were $12,990 for paper and $16,480 for Smartphone.
In their research, four surveillance sites were targeted and at each, officers identified patients with respiratory illness and administered a brief questionnaire that included demographic and clinical information. While some questionnaires were collected using traditional paper methods, others were collected using HTC Touch Pro2 smartphones using a proprietary software program called the Field Adapted Survey Toolkit (FAST).
Kenya, like Zambia, has joined other African countries who have turned to the use of mobile technology to gather and transfer disease information.
Recently, Zambia launched Mwana, a health initiative aimed at improving the prevention of HIV transmission from mother to child by bridging the gap between some of the country’s national testing laboratories and rural community health care workers.