How Open Source Mobile Health Technology Aided Ebola Response

Alyssa Wood | TechTarget | June 6, 2016

As part of the international response to the recent Ebola outbreak, one organization implemented mobile apps to allow its community health workers to collect better data from survey subjects.

When the Ebola epidemic spread across West Africa in early 2014, organizations around the world sent thousands of health workers to combat the outbreak alongside local medical personnel and volunteers. Over the past two years, many of these teams have seen the benefits of using mobile health technology for disaster response. Some of the most important tasks in responding to a healthcare disaster are collecting, analyzing, sharing and acting upon data gleaned from patients. That was one job of Partners in Health (PIH), a nonprofit based in Boston, which worked in the affected countries to train medical staff, provide patient care, and survey patients and their families.

Partners in Health's Ebola screening mobile appPIH in June 2015 launched an Ebola screening app for its employees, partners and local residents who served as community health workers in Sierra Leone's Kono district. These workers used the data entry and collection app on PIH-issued smartphones to survey patients about symptoms and share care information. A number of factors make it especially difficult to create and implement mobile health technology in impoverished communities and disaster situations, said Ermyas Birru, geographic information systems and mobile health specialist at PIH, during a recent panel discussion at the Mobile Monday Boston event. The terrain, weather and lack of power sources affected community health workers' ability to reach patients and use their mobile devices, Birru said. And, inherently, the Ebola epidemic required a rapid response...