SMS:Medic Blog.

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  • Demonstrating Our Impact

    03 Nov

    Filed under blog

    mHealth is a relatively new field.  Our tools represent an enormous array of opportunity and potential to affect health outcomes in diverse settings.  But how do we know that they work?  We have anecdotes- community health workers telling us that remote patient monitoring has saved them long trips to and from the clinic, patients confirming speedier care in emergency situations, or clinics reporting referral loops that have been successfully closed.  Stories like these, although powerful, are just the beginning.  By having clinics tabulate their new rates of completed referrals, or by interviewing every health worker and asking them to estimate their time savings, we begin to see that the anecdotes are only small components of a vast body of change.

    We at Medic are committed to developing rigorous monitoring and evaluation structures with all of our partners in order to validate the impact of our tools.  To demonstrate this commitment, data on the outcomes from our first field site in Malawi were recently published in the Journal of Technology and Health Care.  The paper provides a treatment of the communication challenges that were faced at St. Gabriel’s Hospital, the manner in which FrontlineSMS:Medic tools were employed to address these obstacles, and a discussion of the outcome metrics from the six-month pilot.

    To read the paper, follow the link below to the PubMed NCBI listing:

    Technol Health Care. 2010 Jan;18(2):137-44.

    A text message-based intervention to bridge the healthcare communication gap in the rural developing world.

    Mahmud NRodriguez JNesbit J.

    Or, for off-print requests, kindly direct an email to


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    Time to Act – Our Commitment

    07 Oct

    Filed under conferences and meetings

    Members at the Clinton Global Initiative are asked to make a commitment to action. This year, our commitment at FrontlineSMS:Medic centers around the deployment of three mobile health tools: PatientView, a lightweight patient records system that can be used anywhere there is a mobile signal; Surveys, a new tool that allows users to collect structured information by SMS; and the OpenMRS messaging module, a new messaging platform for the open-source medical records system OpenMRS.

    Josh CGI


    Ideal for hard-to-reach hospitals and clinics, PatientView organizes text messages and mobile forms to create searchable patient and health worker profiles.The module creates a new user interface within FrontlineSMS – one screen where staff at a central computer can view all relevant data relevant. Health workers can sort, update, and add new records from the central computer. The plug-in also introduces login security, new search features, simpler messaging to patients’ health workers, and an upcoming  ‘flag’ system to alert clinical staff to certain information, and new reporting capabilities. Watch the demo video here.


    The Surveys module was developed to efficiently and accurately send structured information via plain text SMS available on the lowest-common-denominator handsets in low-resource settings. It provides a simple syntax and enables structured data collection with the robustness and scalability of SMS through plain text, yes/no, multiple choice, and checklist responses. Use cases include dynamic stock reporting and resource mapping, landmine victim care tracking, and maternal health vital event reporting.  We are collaborating with Google to enable Surveys to update information about health facilities in Resource Finder, a tool Google has developed to help disseminate updated information about which services various health facilities offer in a disaster area.  Surveys will allow relief workers to update a given facility’s available bed status, which types of specialists are on staff, etc, all via SMS.

    Surveys screenshot

    Surveys screenshot

    Google's Resource Finder

    Google's Resource Finder

    The OpenMRS Messaging Module

    FrontlineSMS:Medic has built a messaging platform for OpenMRS, a web-based, open-source medical records system. This messaging module will allow large clinics to extend patient records outside clinic walls, e.g. giving remote health workers the ability to update patients’ records via SMS, allowing clinicians to set appointment reminders, messaging CHWs about patient test results and treatment instructions, etc. Learn more about the messaging module here.

    FrontlineSMS:Medic aims to implement three national-scale and over ten regional-scale programs by the end of 2012. Target countries include Malawi, Kenya, Mali, Bangladesh, Haiti and Colombia.  Through these deployments, we expect to increase our number of end users to at least 15,000 health workers.

    The need is loud and clear – large gaps exist in health systems. The disconnect between health centers and peripheral communities means that adherence rates suffer, clinicians are unaware of patient statuses, immobile patients cannot receive emergency care, remote health workers lack support, new illnesses are not identified, and drug stock-outs are too common. We believe that FrontlineSMS:Medic’s tools can help create health systems that are connected, coordinated, and save more lives.

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    OpenMRS 2010 meeting – It’s all about community

    15 Sep

    Filed under blog
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    The Singing Geeks of OpenMRS 2010 from Isaac Holeman on Vimeo.

    One of the several open source software platforms we work with is called OpenMRS – it’s an electronic medical records system designed for managing patient information in treatment programs (such as HIV or TB), as well as primary care. Generally the niche for OpenMRS is with larger scale, more well resourced programs (in contrast with PatientView, which has more limited features and is much easier to use for minimally resourced projects). Although OpenMRS is used all over the world, it’s design emphasizes the needs of health care workers in the regions where we work – especially Africa.

    Dieterich and I (Isaac) recently attended the annual OpenMRS meeting and it was great. Dieterich has been working very hard on a messaging module that will enable health workers to send SMS and other types of messages via OpenMRS, and his demo was very well received. I had a great time brainstorming with friends and mentors from all over the world, particularly including Zeshan Rajput who has played an instrumental leadership role in our messaging module project, Paul Biondich who is a key member of our board of advisors, and too many others to count.

    One of the key elements of this meeting was the sense of community, and the clear agreement that the meeting itself wasn’t just about understanding our software application, it was about building relationships and a collegial atmosphere that will keep this good work moving forward despite many inevitable challenges. As Burke said, it’s more like camp than like a conference.

    The video above is one of many examples (perhaps the silliest) of this community building. As the first vocalist, I sang “Cheek to Cheek” with spiced up lyrics. Next up is Dr. Paul Biondich, a cofounder/president of OpenMRS and director of the World Health Organization’s collaborating center on medical informatics singing a classic we all know and love. Third, a gentleman who I do not know… I hope people will let me know his name and the name of his song in the comments. Finally, the great instigator Chris Bailey of the knowledge management division at the World Health Organization, singing entirely new lyrics to a familiar tune that I can’t quite recall… can you help me name that tune?

    You can read more about OpenMRS on their website, or follow them on twitter. Thanks to Burke Mamlin for filming our songs.

    We are starting a project census

    06 Aug

    Filed under blog

    There are only a few things I enjoy more than solving interesting, intractable problems using cool technology. One of them is sharing appropriate technologies in a way that enables people all over the world to solve their own problems. This focus on tools for the world, rather than “solutions” for a small client list, is a huge part of our impact model. With a full time staff of just four people, we are able to support projects in quite a few countries. Our staff have been in charge of only a minority of these projects; most of them are coordinated by innovators, entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs who have found us and decided that they can implement our tools in their own organization or community. We support them remotely via conference calls, email, etc., but too frequently we only hear from people when they run into problems. We have found it very difficult to stay in touch with projects that are up and running. Our old word documents and PDFs about each project have started to pile up but we lack a basic, uniform data set that is up to date and comprehensive of all projects. So we’re undertaking a project census and we hope you will help us.

    The deal for our clients:
    We’ll continue to offer loads of free advice and software to anyone who will keep in touch about where, when, and how they are using it. This form is short – it should only take 10-15 minutes – and we want you to think of it both as a thank you to Medic and as a payment for our services.

    Our ability to fundraise depends on having good data about our end users, so I’m serious when I say that completing this questionnaire is as important as providing payment for goods received. Nadim (Medic’s Research Director) and I have tried to make it brief and easy, so we hope you will be able to complete it quickly and painlessly.

    Thank you in advance to everyone who takes the time to fill out this form! For those of you who are not actively working on a project, we appreciate your help reminding the rest of the community to check out the form.


    Find the form at

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