Updated: 5/16/2006; 12:29:35 PM.

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daily link  Thursday, April 07, 2005

How SMS Could Save Your Life: Cell phones are being used "to manage the treatment of HIV/AIDS in [South Africa] where health care systems are overburdened and doctors are scarce. ..

Therapeutic counselors fill a crucial gap at the Gugulethu clinic, where 525 patients taking ARV drugs are served by just two doctors and two nurses. They visit patients at home and count pills. They take note of conditions that interfere with treatment, such as the absence of food in the house. In short, they are the first line of defense against problems with side effects and drug resistance that can develop if treatment isn't managed properly. In the past, this job involved writing out the cumbersome details of each home visit by hand. But as the clinic data accumulated and the number of patients on treatment grew, the system became unmanageable..

They [now] use SMS to send all of this information to a central database, where Sister Mtwisha can instantly view it on her computer screen. With all of the relevant information compiled neatly in front of her, the irregularities stand out. .. "I used to pick up some faults in the system after a week or a month," she says. "Now I send a message and things are sorted out on the spot, without having to wait." ..

The system, which runs on open-source software, is inexpensive and can easily be managed remotely and adapted for various projects. ..

"If a patient in Gugulethu goes to the Eastern Cape and gets sick and goes to a clinic, they would need to know what drug regimen he's been on, what side effects he had, whether he was hospitalized," she says. "We need to get a system like an ATM where you can get money from every bank. We need something like that for HIV."  The Cell-Life project, started by civil engineering faculty and students at the University of Cape Town and the Cape Technikon, has enlisted engineers and computer programmers to provide just that. 

Meanwhile, a number of other clinics have expressed interest in using the system, but it has been difficult to raise funds to expand the program. Most donors would rather buy drugs than spend money on systems for distributing them, Rivett says.  Instead of donating money, however, she maintains that large companies like Coca-Cola could make an even greater contribution by sharing their knowledge in areas like distribution and product management.  "You find Coca-Cola in rural villages everywhere, but you don't find drugs," she says. "The Coca-Colas and the Unilevers can make sure their products get to these places. We need to use these guys to help us get drugs into every single clinic."

  2:33:50 PM  permalink  


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Last update: 5/16/2006; 12:29:35 PM.