Leveraging mTrac to Respond to Disease Outbreaks
While mTrac was designed for collecting aggregate health data, community feedback and monitoring of healthcare delivery bottlenecks, the Ministry of Health (MoH) is now using the platform for other critical life-saving measures.
Each district across Uganda has registered health workers and village health teams (VHTs) for use of the system. This gives the District Health Teams and the MoH the capability to send urgent SMS messages to their frontline workforce.
The ability to communicate directly to health workers has made huge impact in the response to the July 2012 Ebola outbreak in Kibaale District and the November 2012 Marburg outbreak centered around Kabale. In the past, it was very difficult to contact frontline health workers and provide them with critical, real-time information during emergencies. This has now changed. The MoH national response team quickly prepared a series of SMS messages alerting health workers to the outbreak, the case definition (symptoms), isolation procedures, the location of the nearest isolation facilities and the hotline to the national response team for reporting suspected cases.
During the Marburg outbreak the Ministry of Health sent a total of 9,900 SMS messages to 825 health workers, district health teams and VHTs across 5 districts. By doing so, the MoH was able to ensure that its staff had all the information they needed to effectively respond and minimise the impact on the Ugandan people. The link provided below is to the information leaflet on Marburg produced by the MoH and WHO. This content served as the basis for SMS messages sent to health workers in November 2012.
This innovative use of mTrac demonstrates the impact mobile health technology (mHealth) can have in a resource-constrained environment. There is a great potential for developing a comprehensive stakeholder engagement engine that could channel messages to the public, health workers/VHTs and to individual patients. Future use cases include medicine adherence reminders, referrals management and appointment scheduling and these are just a few of the nearly unlimited possibilities. What is clear is that mHealth will increasingly play a role in the delivery and monitoring of health services in Uganda.