ICT and health care delivery in developing countries

Disease control and prevention, patient management and health information systems, and diagnosis and treatment are critical components of health care delivery. Appropriate information and communication technologies can dramatically enhance their reach and effectiveness. This Key list presents a selection of success stories in the use of ICT in health care delivery in resource-poor settings. The resources on this list discuss and illustrate the application and benefits of technology to disease surveillance and control, such as the Malaria Early Warning System, which relies on online rainfall monitoring; to patient management and health information systems, with examples of electronic medical record systems, immunisation registry and tracking systems; and to disease diagnosis and treatment, with examples of teleconsultation based on medical images and surgical pre-screening.

The research for this list was carried out by a team of researchers working on an infoDev contract to explore the use of ICT in the health sector in developing countries. The research team was led by a consortium involving Healthlink Worldwide, AfriAfya and the Institute for Sustainable Health Education for Development. Source welcomes additions to this list. Please email suggestions to sourceassistant@hi-uk.org.

Selected resources

Diagnosis and treatment

Case study : the Tygerberg Children's Hospital and Rotary Telemedicine Project

2003

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The article describes the Tygerberg Children's Hospital and Rotary Telemedicine Project in South Africa which links specialists from Tygerberg Hospital to doctors at regional community or district hospitals to improve healthcare in rural areas. The initiative has assembled its own telemedicine system using off-the-shelf computer equipment and software that is more affordable than commercial telemedicine systems. It describes the local context, how the system was set up and how it works. It outlines the challenges faced by the project

Handhelds for health : SATELLIFE’S experiences in Africa and Asia

SATELLIFE
July 2005

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This report describes the SATELLIFE experience in implementing handheld computer projects to support health-care providers and institutions in a dozen countries in Asia and Africa. It captures SATELLIFE's experience and lessons learned as a 16-year veteran of using ICTs for health and an early adopter of handheld computers in low-resource environments. It also provide some pointers to other organisations that may benefit from their knowledge and experience, to optimize their own use of ICT in general or handhelds in particular

Mobile phones keep track of HIV treatments

KHAN, Taman
September 2004

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Thi article reports on the Cell-Life project, which has developed a software and data management systems to allow health workers use their mobile phones to monitor patients' treatment. The data is transferred to a central database, which clinic staff can access over a secure Internet connection. In a successful pilot project 80 HIV counsellours where trained, and through the use of their mobiles are now able to keept track of nearly 800 patients

T@lemed : a telehealth case study project based on ultrasound images

DELAZARI BINOTTO, Alécio Pedro
SACHPAZIDIS, Ilias
SOARES TORRES, Márcio
et al
2005

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The growth of wired and wireless Internet (including communication via satellite) in Brazil and the recent advance of image compression methods allows rapid tele-consultation based on medical images. One of the most challenging problems in telemedicine is the real-time tele-consultation in case of emergency. In this brief paper, the ongoing T@lemed Project in the Brazilian State of Rio Grande do Sul is described and preliminary results from the first month of operation are presented

Telemedicine project in district village of Andhra Pradesh

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A report on a telemedicine project in the remote hamlet of Andhra Pradesh. Using ISDN and VSAT lines, the village was connected to hospitals in Hyderabad and Chennai, bringing tertiary care to the villagers and making key specialists available to them. Although not a financial success, the popularity of the project means that the organisers want to extend the scheme further

The compliance service uses SMS technology for TB treatment

BRIDGES.ORG
2003

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A comprehensive case study on the use of the Short Message Service (SMS) to alert tuberculosis (TB) patients to take their medication. The initiative has led to a significant increase in the recovery rate of patients and could lead to savings for healthcare authorities

Disease control and prevention

An online operational rainfall-monitoring resource for epidemic malaria early warning systems in Africa

GROVER-KOPEC, E
et al
2005

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Malaria Early Warning Systems are advocated as a means of improving the opportunity for preparedness and timely response to malaria epidemics. Rainfall is one of the major factors triggering epidemics in warm semi-arid and desert-fringe areas. Consequently, rainfall monitoring forms one of the essential elements for the development of integrated Malaria Early Warning Systems for sub-Saharan Africa, as outlined by the World Health Organization. The Roll Back Malaria Technical Resource Network on Prevention and Control of Epidemics recommended that a simple indicator of changes in epidemic risk in regions of marginal transmission, consisting primarily of rainfall anomaly maps, could provide immediate benefit to early warning efforts. In response to these recommendations, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network produced maps that combine information about dekadal rainfall anomalies, and epidemic malaria risk, available via their Africa Data Dissemination Service. These maps were later made available in a format that is directly compatible with HealthMapper, the mapping and surveillance software developed by the WHO's Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response Department. A new monitoring interface has recently been developed at the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction (IRI) that enables the user to gain a more contextual perspective of the current rainfall estimates by comparing them to previous seasons and climatological averages. These resources are available at no cost to the user and are updated on a routine basis

Health management and information systems

Electronic immunisation registry and tracking system in Bangladesh

AHMED, M
2004

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This report summarises the 2001 development of a new computerised information system to register, schedule and track the immunisation of children, which was introduced by the Department of Public Health in Rajshahi City Corporation, Bangladesh. While no direct funding was provided for it, the assumed cost was not more than US $5000. The author concludes that system has been working well for the past three years. He also notes that the utilisation of ICTs in poor countries should be targeted at those intermediaries (such as health workers) who play a key role in the lives of the poor through high-contact service delivery. Empowering those workers and helping improve the effectiveness of their service delivery will do more for the poor than any number of e-government portals

Implementing a new health management information system in Uganda

GLADWIN, J
DIXON, R A
WILSON, T D
June 2003

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The paper reviews the installation of a new health management system in Uganda. The authors noted that technological issues, rather than wider organisational issues, dominated the planning of the change. The need to consider the organisational context when changing information systems arises because the process is more complex than some practitioners have realised. It is a useful case study of the implementation of information and communication technology

Telephone and Internet-based medical appointments

RODRIGUEZ-ALEMAN, Luis Angel
2003

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This report briefly outlines the results of a project which aimed to reduce waiting time for patients of Mexico family health care centres. A call centre has been set up and appointments can be made either by phone or via Internet. The system is currently working in 116 clinics and 9387 calls are attended daily. The document concludes with lessons learned and some considerations on the impact on development