Article Abstract

A comparison between paper-based and m-Health tools for collating and reporting clinical cases of lymphatic filariasis and podoconiosis in Ethiopia

Authors: Sarah Martindale, Hayley E. Mableson, Biruk Kebede, Fikre H. Kiros, Abraham Tamiru, Belete Mengistu, Anna Krueger, Charles D. Mackenzie, Louise A. Kelly-Hope

Abstract

Background: Lymphatic filariasis (LF) and podoconiosis are disabling diseases, endemic in Ethiopia. The main clinical manifestations include lymphoedema from LF and podoconiosis, and hydrocoele from LF. To ensure access to morbidity management and disability prevention (MMDP) services, data on patient numbers in each implementation unit (IU) is required. House-to-house census is considered the gold standard for determining patient numbers, and data are usually collated and reported using paper-based methods. However, often there are delays in data reaching the regional and central level, which leads to subsequent delays in rolling out and prioritising MMDP services. The increase in mobile phone mHealth tools offers an alternative, potentially more rapid and cost-effective approach.
Methods: As part of an LF and podoconiosis burden assessment conducted in Hawella Tula and Bensa districts in Ethiopia, this study compared the standard paper-based methods with the new MeasureSMS-Morbidity tool for clinical cases data collation and reporting. Health extension workers (HEWs) were trained on both methods. Comparisons were made on patient information; age, gender, location (i.e., kebele), condition, severity of condition and acute attacks. Data were analysed for trends, including the differences in ranking the villages in each district based on the highest to lowest number of cases. In addition, financial and human resource requirements were compared.
Results: In total, 59 HEWs (19 from Hawella Tula; 40 from Bensa) collated and reported a similar number of cases by paper-based (n=2,377) and SMS (n=2,372) methods. Significant correlations were found between the two methods for all cases and lymphoedema cases in both districts, and for hydrocoele cases in Bensa district only. The total cost of paper-based reporting was 13.7% more expensive than SMS reporting due to costs associated with data collection and entry.
Conclusions: The rank correlation showed the same villages would be prioritised for delivery of MMDP services, with time and cost-savings observed using SMS reporting, suggesting it is an effective and efficient alternative tool to help facilitate care to those who need it most.