Moving Information into the Hands of Those Who Heal
ICT for Health > Empowering Health Workers to Save Lives
AED-SATELLIFE has been a pioneer in promoting the use of information
technology for better health in low-resource environments, and continues that
tradition today with the introduction of mobile computing devices such as
handheld computers (also known as Personal Digital Assistant or PDA) and mobile
phones for information dissemination and data collection. Over the past six
years, AED-SATELLIFE has worked with local and international NGOs, bilateral and
multilateral institutions in various capacities ranging from development of
data collection tools using handheld computers suitable for specific needs to
more complex wireless transmission of data to remote computers.
Handheld computers and emerging wireless technologies provide us with
unprecedented opportunities to move information out to where it is needed most.
We can now package local and international health and medical information and
put it in the hands of health workers in environments where electricity,
telephone lines and books are not readily available, and the Internet may still
be years away.
Our current major projects include the Uganda Health Information Network (UHIN) and Mozambique Health Information Network (MHIN). Both projects are funded by the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada (IDRC). We are partnering with Uganda Charterd HealthNet (UCH), Makerere University Faculty of Medicine, and district health services in implementing UHIN in five districts. The MHIN project is implemented in partnership with Mozambique Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Science and Technology. Through MHIN and UHIN we built a network using handheld computers, existing cellular network and wireless access points for Health management Information System (HMIS) electronic data capture and transmission and delivery of health content to health workers located in remote health centers. The networks also bring the power of email to health facilities in the periphery and vastly increase both their access to up-to-date information on such pertinent topics as HIV/AIDS, malaria, child and
maternal health, and health systems management, and their ability to collect, analyze, and utilize data for decision making and resource allocation.
Our work with health workers in multiple settings demonstrated that handheld computers work in this environment, can be easily adopted by new users, and provide a cost-effective alternative to personal computers for many functions. Most importantly, they fill a critical gap in the information chain.