The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa is one of the leading scientific and technology research, development and implementation organisations in Africa. It undertakes directed research and development for socio-economic growth.

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August 2010


Improving healthcare for patients in rural areas through ICT

Voluntary healthcare workers collect data on the five vital signs of patients and send the information to clinics using their cellphones.
The CSIR piloted research to assist a rural community with improved healthcare through an intervention using information and communications technology (ICT). Volunteer healthcare workers provide basic medical assistance to rural patients, visiting them at home on a daily to weekly basis.

Healthcare workers in the Leroro area in Mpumalanga are the direct link between patients and medical staff. Medical staff and institutions require data on the five vital signs of patients - blood pressure, pulse, temperature, blood sugar and weight - for effective patient monitoring and early diagnosis. The challenge was to transfer the captured information to the nearest medical institution.

The system that was designed is a robust and affordable ICT system. It allows for communication between 12 caregivers and medical staff at the two local clinics participating in the pilot. As volunteer healthcare workers interact with patients, they use their existing, familiar cell phones to send the vital-sign information via an ICT-enabled system with a preset menu that guides them through the process.

The benefit derived by the community is evident in a transcript of an interview with a caregiver in Moremela village in March 2010, "Since I started using this system I am able to see a lot of patients. Today I already managed to see 14 patients, which is the highest number for me yet. Previously, I had to walk to the centre and the clinic to submit reports but now I can spend the entire day with patients."

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