Effectiveness of Using Mobile Phone Image Capture for Collecting Secondary Data: A Case Study on Immunization History Data Among Children in Remote Areas of Thailand

JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2015 Jul 20;3(3):e75. doi: 10.2196/mhealth.4183.


Background: Entering data onto paper-based forms, then digitizing them, is a traditional data-management method that might result in poor data quality, especially when the secondary data are incomplete, illegible, or missing. Transcription errors from source documents to case report forms (CRFs) are common, and subsequently the errors pass from the CRFs to the electronic database.

Objective: This study aimed to demonstrate the usefulness and to evaluate the effectiveness of mobile phone camera applications in capturing health-related data, aiming for data quality and completeness as compared to current routine practices exercised by government officials.

Methods: In this study, the concept of "data entry via phone image capture" (DEPIC) was introduced and developed to capture data directly from source documents. This case study was based on immunization history data recorded in a mother and child health (MCH) logbook. The MCH logbooks (kept by parents) were updated whenever parents brought their children to health care facilities for immunization. Traditionally, health providers are supposed to key in duplicate information of the immunization history of each child; both on the MCH logbook, which is returned to the parents, and on the individual immunization history card, which is kept at the health care unit to be subsequently entered into the electronic health care information system (HCIS). In this study, DEPIC utilized the photographic functionality of mobile phones to capture images of all immunization-history records on logbook pages and to transcribe these records directly into the database using a data-entry screen corresponding to logbook data records. DEPIC data were then compared with HCIS data-points for quality, completeness, and consistency.

Results: As a proof-of-concept, DEPIC captured immunization history records of 363 ethnic children living in remote areas from their MCH logbooks. Comparison of the 2 databases, DEPIC versus HCIS, revealed differences in the percentage of completeness and consistency of immunization history records. Comparing the records of each logbook in the DEPIC and HCIS databases, 17.3% (63/363) of children had complete immunization history records in the DEPIC database, but no complete records were reported in the HCIS database. Regarding the individual's actual vaccination dates, comparison of records taken from MCH logbook and those in the HCIS found that 24.2% (88/363) of the children's records were absolutely inconsistent. In addition, statistics derived from the DEPIC records showed a higher immunization coverage and much more compliance to immunization schedule by age group when compared to records derived from the HCIS database.

Conclusions: DEPIC, or the concept of collecting data via image capture directly from their primary sources, has proven to be a useful data collection method in terms of completeness and consistency. In this study, DEPIC was implemented in data collection of a single survey. The DEPIC concept, however, can be easily applied in other types of survey research, for example, collecting data on changes or trends based on image evidence over time. With its image evidence and audit trail features, DEPIC has the potential for being used even in clinical studies since it could generate improved data integrity and more reliable statistics for use in both health care and research settings.

Keywords: DEPIC; electronic data capture; health care information system; mHealth; maternal and child health; mobile technology; vaccine record.