Evaluation of an Android-based mHealth System for Population Surveillance in Developing Countries

J Am Med Inform Assoc. Jul-Aug 2012;19(4):655-9. doi: 10.1136/amiajnl-2011-000476. Epub 2012 Feb 24.


Objective: In parts of the developing world traditionally modeled healthcare systems do not adequately meet the needs of the populace. This can be due to imbalances in both supply and demand--there may be a lack of sufficient healthcare and the population most at need may be unable or unwilling to take advantage of it. Home-based care has emerged as a possible mechanism to bring healthcare to the populace in a cost-effective, useful manner. This study describes the development, implementation, and evaluation of a mobile device-based system to support such services.

Materials and methods: Mobile phones were utilized and a structured survey was implemented to be administered by community health workers using Open Data Kit. This system was used to support screening efforts for a population of two million persons in western Kenya.

Results: Users of the system felt it was easy to use and facilitated their work. The system was also more cost effective than pen and paper alternatives.

Discussion: This implementation is one of the largest applications of a system utilizing handheld devices for performing clinical care during home visits in a resource-constrained environment. Because the data were immediately available electronically, initial reports could be performed and important trends in data could thus be detected. This allowed adjustments to the programme to be made sooner than might have otherwise been possible.

Conclusion: A viable, cost-effective solution at scale has been developed and implemented for collecting electronic data during household visits in a resource-constrained setting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Computers
  • Cell Phone*
  • Community Health Workers
  • Computers, Handheld*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Developing Countries
  • Home Care Services* / economics
  • Humans
  • Kenya
  • Mass Screening / economics
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • User-Computer Interface