News for January 2009

Going global

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A lot has happened in the last 6 months. Everyone involved with Mobiles in Malawi is excited by the SMS program’s impact on healthcare delivery at St. Gabriel’s Hospital. The medical staff and participating CHWs have taken ownership of the initiative, and what’s left of a public service grant will keep the program running for 10-15 years – at just $500 per year.

St. Gabriel’s is certainly not alone in the challenges it faces as a rural healthcare provider. After witnessing the effects of simple ideas and equally uncomplicated technology on medical care, one thing was clear – each day that a clinic goes without tools they want and need is a day with undue hardship.

To date, I am talking with healthcare organizations working in eleven countries (Burundi, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia, Mozambique, India, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Peru, and Haiti) about partnerships to expand the tools and strategies used at St. Gabriel’s to their respective sites. Details regarding these organizations and my role in supporting them will be expounded upon at jopsa.org in the coming weeks. In addition to healthcare providers, I’m honored to be collaborating with kiwanja.net, The kiwanja Foundation, the FrontlineSMS team, and MobilizeMRS.

After speaking with global health organizations and the clinics they’re linked to, it is clear that 2009 must be a year of action. Everything that happens will be posted here. I hope you’ll join me on this journey, and share your thoughts along the way.

Posted: January 21st, 2009
Categories: CHW Training, HIV/AIDS Care, Home-Based Care, Technology, Tuberculosis Management
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Comments: 3 Comments.

Why FrontlineSMS Fits

Why was FrontlineSMS the right tool for St. Gabriel’s Hospital?

I wrote a bit about the virtues of the software in July, amidst the implementation period. The program has been running for six months, and my latest trip allowed me to document the project’s impact on primary care, treatment coordination, and hospital efficiency. Further, the SMS program has saved thousands of hours of travel time for CHWs and hospital staff, and bolstered the CHWs’ status within their respective communities – which are now connected to the hospital’s resources.

As Ken Banks recently stated, whether or not a mobile tool is suitable is “all about the context of the user.” In succinct terms, here are a few reasons that Ken’s tool was a the right fit for St. Gabriel’s:

  1. It’s free.
  2. It works with simple, readily-available hardware. I used recycled phones and didn’t need to worry about the donated laptop’s specifications.
  3. It doesn’t require an internet connection. The hospital’s web access is shaky, at best.
  4. It is incredibly intuitive and easy to use. The nurse running the program had never used a computer in his life. After one hour of training, he was off and FrontlineSMS-ing.
  5. The hospital found the tool – not the other way around. After I spent time at the hospital two summers ago, the need for connectivity was clear. To meet that need, a tool was employed. It wasn’t forced on me or the hospital.
  6. Straightforward features allowed the hospital to take ownership and get creative, which encouraged user-driven functionality. One example: Auto-replies set to provide CHWs with immediate drug dosage and usage information.
  7. A ten-second demonstration can illustrate the program’s purpose. This hooked clinical staff working within various hospital programs (e.g. HIV treatment coordinator, TB officer, PMTCT director).
  8. Past text messages, and vital patient informaiton, are just two clicks away.

In examining the success of the SMS initiative over the last half-year, the appropriateness of the technology cannot be ignored.

Posted: January 15th, 2009
Categories: Technology
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Comments: 1 Comment.

What’s everyone texting about?

A few, very committed individuals – my mother and sister – set out to answer that question. My mom, Casey Nesbit (DPT), receives every message that is sent to the hospital, via email (thanks to a simple forwarding command in FrontlineSMS). Those messages are in Chichewa. For four months, she translated every message to English.

My sister, Elizabeth Nesbit, decided to code and organize every SMS sent by the CHWs. She’s a sophomore at Rice University, making her way to medical school. She categorized messages by keywords and/or phrases (e.g. symptoms, supplies, patient updates/referrals, deaths, requests for help, requests for visits, meeting coordination).

Under this introduction is a list of all the symptoms found in messages communicated to the hospital. Elizabeth sorted these symptoms out into categories (body pains, digestive and urinary tract, respiratory tract, swelling, skin and sores, malaria and fever, weakness, heart problems, cancer, and other). She broke apart every incoming message this way.

Below the symptom list, you’ll find the fruit of their combined efforts – charts explaining the subject matter of texts to the hospital. Click on any of the charts to view a larger version. These messages fell between mid-August and early December. Shoot me an email if you want to see more of Elizabeth’s analysis.

Enjoy!

Symptoms:
scabs, TB, sores on lungs, swollen leg, swelling, weakness, bowel problems, begun to be sick, vomiting, hypertension, disease of the blood pressure, coughing, weak stomach, bowels, rash, malaria fever, HIV positive, coughing, weakness on ARVs, porridge coming out of nose, diarrhea, headache, weakness, swollen legs, delayed reactions, sick, swollen eyes, headache, weakness, loss of appetite, painful scar, unable to walk, leg and joint pain, cannot take medicine, itching stopped, trouble with teeth, sores, swelling in the legs, stomach, swelling, joint pain, trouble straightening leg, congestive heart failure, chest pain, headaches, pain in the joints, paralysis from knees up to waist, asthma, two patients ill, swollen leg, TB, high blood pressure, arm and leg, sores in mouth, mouth sores,TB patient with swollen legs, high blood pressure, stomach swelling, HIV, cough for three weeks, out of breath, swollen, sores, diarrhea, difficulty with legs, patients with diarrhea, stomach twisting, cramping, coughing, TB, HIV, trouble breathing, TB, pain in legs, legs not swollen, can walk, diarrhea, malaria, TB, can’t eat, cancer, not eating, vomiting, burning feet, swollen hand, back pain, severe headache, pain in middle of stomach, sick on ARVs, chest cold, frequent pain, lost voice, chest cold, coughing, chest cold, TB, asthma, trouble walking, boil, swelling, passing blood, TB patient feeling itchy, passing blood, swollen legs, itchiness, shaky because of food, head fever, or malaria, TB, shortness of breath, swelling in armpit, rash, eye, headache, malaria, drinking, convulsions, swollen stomach, elderly, needed food, diarrhea, ear problems, blood oozing out, body wounds, vomiting, swollen, fever, swelling of neck, swelling of stomach—head chief, cough, swelling in legs, stomach problems, out of breath, legs and stomach pain, wound, leg numbness, body aches, diarrhea, difficulty after stomach operation, HIV, crying, hot feet, coughing, malaria, vomiting, sick, trouble with legs, bursting sores, swollen feet, swelling, urine with blood, stomach pain, fever, congestive heart failure, unable to eat, head, fever, general body weakness, demented, swelling, chest cold from TB, body wasting, can’t walk, weak legs, trouble breathing, TB, malaria, body weakness, fever, chest cold, diarrhea, shortness of breath, back ache, leg pain, coughing, sick—malaria, vomiting, loss of appetite, headache, vomiting, malaria, feet pain, fever, back ache, arm pain, body aches, swelling, puss, pregnancy trouble, leg pain, not eating, difficulty breathing, oozing wound, swelling, legs, fever, leg swelling, legs, fever, swollen stomach, slight headache, swelling of legs, face, chronic heart failure, oozing, difficulty with legs, chest cold, stomach pain, diarrhea, leg pain, wound breaking out, leg pain, HIV positive, shingles, leg difficulty, body ache, coughing, cancer—passing urine, yellow body, malaria, convulsions, body aches, body aches, foot pain, swelling of feet, passing urine, soft voice, sleeping for many days, abdominal pain, diarrhea, malaria, cough, weakness, paralysis in feet/toes, illness of head, swollen stomach.

Message Summary

______________________________________________________

Symptoms and Illnesses


____________________________________________________

Supplies

____________________________________________________
Patient Updates and Referrals

___________________________________________________
Requests for Help
____________________________________________________

“Other”

Many, many thanks to my mother and sister for all their work.

Posted: January 11th, 2009
Categories: HIV/AIDS Care, Home-Based Care, Other posts, Technology, Tuberculosis Management
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Comments: 19 Comments.

Antiretroviral Texting


Grace Kamera runs the HIV treatment program at St. Gabriel’s. She oversees atiretroviral therapy (ART) for the catchment area – which includes 250,000 people and an HIV prevalence rate of 15%. While there are a few government-run health centers in the area, St. Gabriel’s Hospital is the only facility offering HIV tests, and the only place to get treatment.

Many of the CHWs are ART monitors – they are trained to check in on HIV patients, to see if they’re complying with the treatment regimen. Noncompliance deducts from the treatment’s efficacy and contributes to drug resistence. Given a limited number of choices for drugs, patient adherence is critical.

Before FrontlineSMS and the accompanying cell phones arrived, Grace was receiving 25 paper reports, per month, from the ART monitors. With 21 ART monitors equipped with cell phones and trained in text messaging, she’s received 400 adherence updates since the outset of the project (15/week).

If the paper trail had continued, each report would have been hand-delivered by a CHW. The average round trip is about 6 hours, so the SMS program has saved ART monitors 900 hours of travel time.

If Grace receives an SMS regarding a patient’s missteps, she will counsel them when they return for more drugs. The patients are well aware that the CHWs have cell phones, and they’re grateful for the connection to the hospital (and Grace). Of all the patients who enroll in the ART program, 80% agree to be monitored. The remainder fear stigmatization within their communities.

Some patients do not turn up to receive their HIV medication. Grace says this is rare – “They usually come a day or two late” – but it happens. She’s used the SMS network to track 25 patients who have failed to show, asking the nearest CHWs to report on their status. Sometimes they’ve left, other times they’re unable to travel or they’ve passed away.

The hospital and the people it serves can’t afford a lack of connectivity. With Grace at the reigns, ART monitors will continue serving their communities, 160 characters at a time.

Posted: January 3rd, 2009
Categories: HIV/AIDS Care
Tags: , , , , ,
Comments: 4 Comments.