Smartphones can help track diseases

March 13, 2012 at 3:06 PM
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NAIROBI, Kenya, March 13 (UPI) -- Smartphones can improve disease surveillance in the developing world with more accurate, faster, cheaper gathering of disease information, U.S. researchers say.

A study presented Monday at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta reported smartphone use was cheaper than traditional paper survey methods in tracking disease spreads in Kenya.

The Kenya Ministry of Health along with researchers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed survey data collection methods at four influenza sites in Kenya where surveillance officers identified patients with respiratory illness and administered a brief questionnaire that included demographic and clinical information.

Some of the questionnaires were collected using traditional paper methods while others were collected using smartphones using a proprietary software program called the Field Adapted Survey Toolkit, a CDC release reported.

"Collecting data using smartphones has improved the quality of our data and given us a faster turnaround time to work with it," Henry Njuguna, surveillance coordinator at CDC Kenya, said. "It also helped us save on the use of paper and other limited resources."

The cost of collecting data by smartphones was lower in the long run than paper-based methods, the study found.

For two years, the cost of establishing and running a paper-based data collection system was approximately $61,830 compared to approximately $45,546 for a smartphone data collection system, researchers said.

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