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Data collection systems for patient monitoring during disaster relief

Added on 28 Jun 2010
Last updated on 14 Jun 2011

Authors: Written by Anat Rosenthal, Ph.D.; Reviewed by Sophie Beauvais and Joaquin Blaya, Ph.D.

Initiated by a community member working in a program in Haiti involving 7 hospitals and the World Health Organization, the US military, Handicap International, HelpAge International, and UNICEF, members participating in this discussion provide a list of requirements and systems available for the collection and sorting of demographic information about patients, their follow-up plans, the distribution of non-food items (NFI) and vulnerability indices using mobile devices.

Key Points

Ideal requirements and functionalities:

  • Power: Ability to run without power; Emergency power restoration feature allowing for the use of system while power is being restored.
  • Language independent
  • Free or low cost
  • System can run online as well as offline
  • Ability to input data by mobile phone
  • Ability to extend functionalities with modules
  • Easy installation and use for clinical staff (especially: no training needed, quick access)
  • Ability to create personalized reports/follow-up documents for patients take-away
  • Biometric identification of patients
  • Geographic Information System (GIS) features or integration possible

Key References

  • Frontline SMS using a patient template message that users send back in a Short Message Service (SMS): Patient Name**/Age**/Hospital**/Date**/Diagnosis**/Treatment** etc. This is stored on the surgeon's cell phone, edited after every patient encounter and sent to a FLSMS hub. Advantages - minimalist. Will work with any cell phone although more sophisticated ones would run a forms version. Disadvantages - Message must be short. No linked tables so new message for every diagnosis & every treatment. Getting a hard copy report back might be an issue (parsing->report generation ->transmission->printing)
  • OpenXData essentially the same setup except that OXD does allow parent/child linkage and says that their form software will run on any phone.
  • HandBase has an iPhone app for $10 which allows the use of a full featured relational database (linked tables and relationships). It also runs on PDAs Smartphones, Blackberry etc. producing compatible files and CSV files for export. It is great for a single person or for a small well organized group but would not be practical in the mass chaos of an emergency where everyone has different hardware.
  • Developments with Electronic Medical Record Systems: Larry Nathanson at Beth Israel-Deaconess in Boston, U.S. developed a simple surgical EMR system which uses iPhones for data entry and viewing and a web based back end; Partners In Health has several ongoing projects with OpenMRS
  • Four Corners Medical Software, LLC
  • iSante by I-TECH
  • iPhone systems used by a Harvard Humanitarian Initiative team in Haiti built on jQTouch, a plugin for mobile web development on smart phones
  • OpenDataKit: data collection with mobile phones
  • Nokia Data Gathering (NDG): data collection with mobile phones
  • RapidSMS is an open source software enabling data collection via SMS using mobile phones
  • EpiSurveyor Mobile is a product of, “a non-profit organization that uses mobile information technologies, including handheld computers, mobile phones, the Internet, and GPS, to create sustainable information flow in developing countries and to break down the barriers to data utilization”.

Enrich the GHDonline Knowledge Base: Please consider replying to this discussion with the following information

  • Your feedback on usability of such solutions, including known problems and bugs
  • Your recommendations on systems not mentioned in this discussion and links to websites

Download: 06_28_10_Data_Collect_Disaster_Relief.pdf (42.5 KB)