In South Sudan, with inherent access to the internet, the World Health Organization (WHO) has rolled out an initiative to enable line managers to interact with field data on Smart Touch screens.
The platform uses mobile phones for conducting active case searches for priority diseases and routine Immunization assessments at health facility levels and it is gaining width.
Following the independence of South Sudan, but with conflict continuing in some areas affecting many public health facilities, the novel technology of using smart screens to interact with field data collection has been readily embraced by Ministry of Health in South Sudan.
“Since the advent of the mobile-based surveillance, it has made it possible to prioritize areas and needed intervention for both immunization and surveillance, as the data exists for all to see”, says Dr Atem Anyuon, Director General of the Primary Health Care Ministry of Health South Sudan . He also said that other stakeholders that support the EPI programme would have access and utilization of the mobile technology.
The technology relies on cutting edge aggregation of data collected by health workers and community informants from the field on database servers then displaying them on touch interactive screens.
This means monitoring and evaluation can be done by touching smart screens – with just a touch maps can be viewed, charts and dashboards of data streaming in from the field can also be monitored.
Explaining the innovation, WHO Representative (WR), Dr Olushayo Olu says, “interacting with real-time data via the smart visualization screens recognized gaps in surveillance and intuitively navigated the interactive maps of South Sudan”.
“The WR is optimistic that the platform will enable interaction with other data sets from static collection platforms to triangulate and make actionable decisions to improve and support surveillance and other primary health services in the country. “
With the introduction, South Sudan also demonstrated the strengths of the technologies in elucidating gaps and validating Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) surveillance in remote hinterlands without internet, along with strong evidence of active case search, demonstrable staff accountability and ease of making customs situational charts and dashboards on the go.
Some of the achievements for South Sudan has been over 6,000 active case search for priority diseases being conducted across all the counties with 85% of the AFP cases having geo-coordinates.
The gold standard for polio surveillance in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) Programme is the detection of cases of AFP and laboratory testing of stool specimens from these patients in a WHO accredited laboratory.
“For me – my enthusiasm about innovating on this has been the fact that we can collect data with geographic information in places that do not have any form of network coverage and it sends the information whenever the health worker reaches an internet source”, Mr Godwin Akpan, Data Management Officer of the Regional Office for Africa says.
Furthermore, the frontline modes of collecting data in the extreme no-coverage situation enable countries like South Sudan with limited connectivity to internet benefit from collecting electronic data while conducting diseases surveillance in real time.
Akpan stresses that “there are the exciting possibilities of country teams having the freedom to slice and dice the data with various analytics on the smart screen; appropriate technology hitherto used for weather analyses by mega news conglomerates is being harnessed and now available for use by countries in the African region – a first of its kind built around open source technologies at no recurrent cost except for the hardware.
With the interactive smart screens, the Ministry of health and WHO can now interactively analyze data from AVADAR (Auto visual AFP detection and Reporting), Esurv (electronic Surveillance), Immunization Campaign Monitoring, Mortality monitoring as well as the ‘Lots Quality Assurance’ survey.
The initiative is facilitated by the GPEI partnership, WHO Regional office for Africa with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.