Thursday, June 13, 2024

A Better Society, Thanks to Technology

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Village health nurses undergoing training about RTBP
Village health nurses undergoing training about RTBP

Detecting an epidemic requires identification of similar cases reported across a region. This is quite difficult with a system that relies mostly on paper-based records.

“Health workers, especially nurses in rural areas are quite over-worked. On top of that, they are burdened with a considerable amount of paper work too. But by the time these papers reach the concerned officers, get fed into a system and analysed, the epidemic would have blown up,” says Suma Prashant, deputy director and senior vice president (exploratory initiatives) of IITM’s RTBI.

The research, funded by a grant from the International Development Research Centre of Canada, was called the Real-Time Biosurveillance Program (RTBP). It aimed to introduce the latest technology to health departments in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka to complement the existing disease surveillance and notification systems.

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“With great support from the secretary of the government of Tamil Nadu and the deputy director of Health Services, Sivaganga, during that time, RTBI set about exploring various alternatives including the tech architecture, the kind of phones to be used and so on. We piloted the solution in the Sivaganga district in Tamil Nadu, with four public health centres, 25 nurses and 200 villages within its purview,” says Prashant.

The RTBP system involves digitising all clinical health records and analysing them in nearly real time to detect unusual events, and forewarn health workers before the diseases reach epidemic levels. At the heart of the solution is the mHealthSurvey mobile phone application, which enables health workers to feed information such as patient case, disease and syndrome, using a very simple form on a low-cost Java-enabled mobile phone.

This information is fed into the T-Cube Web interface, which is a browser-based software tool that uses the T-Cube data structure for fast retrieval and display of large-scale multivariate time series and spatial information. The interface allows the user to execute complex queries quickly and run various types of comprehensive statistical tests on the loaded data.

The Sahana messaging/alerting module is then used to disseminate information to health workers and officials if any suspicious trend is spotted. The system can also be used to share information about cures for the same.

Although the pilots were successful, the implementation did not take off to scale but currently, they are in a position to implement RTBP in any location, if required, and are also exploring ways to use a similar system for other public healthcare services such as disease notification, treatment adherence system, and maternal and child health in rural areas.

Ensuring employees reach home safe
Social tag: Employee safety
Tech tag: Mobile app, location services, GPS, maps, SMS

Employee security, especially women’s security, has become a key social concern in India, especially in light of recent tragedies. Closer integration with the operations of global counterparts, business process outsourcing and the emergence of call centres have made the 9-to-5 schedule impractical these days, and employees in many industries have to work in shifts or stay back till late in the night. Their safety and security until they reach home has become important for many companies. This is the inspiration behind Persistent Systems’ new employee safety solution.

“Over one-third of our workforce at Persistent Systems is composed of women. We want to provide the best possible means to ensure their security, and technology can play an important role in that. Modern technologies, especially mobility, location services, and easy availability of content and information, have made it feasible for companies like us to look at building a solution that can reduce the risk for employees,” says Shivesh Vishwanathan, senior consultant (Mobility), Persistent Systems.

While there are general security solutions available on mobile devices, they do not cater to employees specifically or to the Indian context. What companies need is a solution that is well-tailored to their needs.

“Our solution looks at the holistic picture for employee safety. The security staff keeps track of individual cabs and the route being taken by them. They can also be alerted in case of route deviations, etc. Notifications to a few emergency contact numbers and to the security are sent as SMS. Attention to detail and simplicity of user interface are critical for such applications to be useful and widely adopted. For example, with our app, the employee can shake the device in a particular movement to raise an alert in case of emergency,” says Vishwanathan.

The solution has been built with a backend on Rails framework. The mobile app has been built for Android devices currently, and the iOS version is slated for release soon. The app uses the smartphone’s GPS capability to identify location and integrates with Google Maps on the backend for the user to define routes before leaving and show any deviations from the decided path to be taken by the cab.

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