Thursday, 19 January 2012

#mHealth a #diabetes #mobile project in DRCongo, Cambodia and the Philippines

Most of us want to make some kind of difference, making the world a better place. Josefien Van Olmen is one of these wonderful researchers at ITM that gets it done. A few months back she asked me to get involved in a diabetes project which would involve basic cell-phones. We all got our heads together (doctors, social scientists and technologists) and set up a really cool and easy to build and implement diabetes project. For those interested a quick overview of how it was set up:

Josefien drew up the medical side of things, taken into account national differences, regional challenges, medical ethics, etcetera. She is a very intelligent expert researcher and she drives her people hard but with an incredible warmth of heart. Will not link to any medical framework here, as this is part of Josefien’s work, but feel free to contact her if you want to learn more about it: Josefien’s LinkedIn page can be found here.

Needs going into the project:
  • Getting in touch with diabetes people (diabetes 1 and 2) who are living in remote areas or who have a hard time getting to their health clinics/health care workers/diabetes educators.
  • Keep the diabetes project at low cost,
  • Make use of the personal cell phones the diabetes patients have (cheap cell phones, mostly java enabled) to make them feel comfortable with the technology of the program.
  • Make it generic so other organizations in the country (or elsewhere) would be able to reproduce it for their own purposes,
  • Get people empowered to use their cell phone for practical life changing/enhancing topics.
  • Make the program strong and durable by providing patient records
  • Keep the program easy to use, so health care workers as well as users will be kept motivated to use it even in difficult times.
  • Allow the content and communications to be written or performed in different languages (French, Khmer, …).
  • Keep control of the program and the health messages.
  • Easily build health messages to send around in bulk.

  • First of all working closely with the diabetes managers in the countries: they know their patients, the challenges for their specific regions. Getting a participative project going from the start.
  • Finding a low cost (free and open source!) solution that works with basic cell phones, offers the option to build your own reports/forms, and allows all the communication that is happening between the patients, the health care workers and the diabetes managers to be put into long lasting and transparent patient records => one solution the Frontline SMS medic solution.
  • Testing the program: the most difficult part was finding the right modem to get frontline sms to work properly (we used a Huawei gsm modem in the end, after trying quite some other types of gsm modems).
  • Getting a frontlinesms expert in to fine tune to the program’s needs. Limbanazo Kapindula was/is the man of the moment. He just finished a mHealth project in Malawi (blogpost and his presentation on the project can be found here).
Some resources
If you are interested in testing out the frontlinesms medic for your own purposes, feel free to download the frontlineSMS medic program here or check out this video and start your own project yourself or with your team.

This diabetes program is now being set up right now and will be ready for roll-out in the very near future. Josefien, you sure know how to make a difference. I know how important it is to get connected to my fellow diabetics and health care workers, thank you for your great work and the opportunity to work with you!