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Regenstrief Investigator a Winner of Top 11 in 2011 Innovator Challenge

The Challenge’s goal is to recognize individuals who have used mobile technology in innovative ways to improve health systems and outcomes particularly in the most remote areas of the world. The 11 winning innovators were determined by a combination of public and selection committee votes.

Dr. Were is being recognized for the development and evaluation of innovative mobile health solutions for use in resource-limited settings and for their large-scale deployment by the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare. AMPATH, Kenya’s most comprehensive initiative to combat human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), is expanding its scope to include delivery of essential primary care services, and control of communicable diseases and non-communicable chronic illnesses.

Instead of chasing a paper chart, AMPATH clinicians using the new application can instantly access on a smartphone a wealth of patient-specific data including demographics, a patient’s medical problems, laboratory results and medication adherence. The clinicians also receive just-in-time reminders and alerts when the system notices that substandard care is being offered — such as when a scheduled test is overdue, or when a needed medication has not been started. The system not only helps clinicians with their work, it also has capabilities to enforce compliance with care guidelines. Additionally, clinicians can respond to the reminders by wirelessly printing from the smartphones requisitions for laboratory tests, with all patient information pre-filled in for them. 

A second application for data collection has already been used by community health workers from AMPATH during home visits for HIV counseling and testing for over 650,000 individuals.

“This award really recognizes what AMPATH is accomplishing. It is a true collaboration, with many people and organizations around the world,” said Dr. Were, whose research in developing countries focuses on clinical decision support and mobile technology. In accepting the award, Dr. Were acknowledged the collaboration with colleagues at the University of Washington who developed the Open Data Kit platform that was enhanced for this work by Yaw Anokwa, a University of Washington Ph.D. candidate.

The mobile technologies work on most Android devices and do not require real-time connection to the Internet. Smartphones now cost less than 100 U.S. dollars and are pervasive throughout Kenya, making it feasible to provide them to community health workers and to clinicians.

“This is not just putting an electronic medical record on a phone,” Dr. Were said. “It’s that, plus intelligence. And it’s being done successfully in a very resource-limited environment.”

These mobile health innovations could be used anywhere in the world. They integrate with OpenMRS, an open-source electronic record system developed by the Regenstrief Institute and now used in over 50 countries. Reminders need only be programmed once and can be widely disseminated. The system accommodates any disease condition, and guidelines are easy to update.

The Regenstrief Institute and AMPATH are at the forefront, bringing innovative mHealth technologies to areas with poor infrastructure and financial resources. Dr. Were was funded for this work by the Abbott Fund.

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A demonstration of the clinical decision support technology can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skV25YchXlE.