Washington, D.C., February 26, 2013 (PAHO/WHO)— The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) has developed a system that uses SMS text messaging to facilitate cholera surveillance and control in Haiti and other countries in the Americas.
The information transmission system, called SEAMUS, was designed in response to the challenge of accessing and collecting scattered information in remote areas. Before, health workers in Haiti documented the information manually. Internet connectivity issues made it difficult to upload data to the epidemiological surveillance system and keep it current.
Thanks to the new system, this process is now easier, quicker, and more efficient and economical. Health workers in the field use their cell phones to send a text message with specific data, such as the cholera cases or quality of water, to a designated number.
At the operations center, the system collects the information in real time and facilitates analysis to support decision-making. When it receives the information, SEAMUS filters it to ensure that the message is properly formulated and notifies the sender if there are errors via SMS. If the value of a parameter being monitored exceeds the predetermined alarm level, SEAMUS automatically alerts the experts in charge via text message or email, facilitating an immediate response.
SEAMUS also produces a database of all the messages received and enables experts to do trend analysis, historical reports, statistics, and mapping.
The system can be adapted to other contexts and information transmission needs. Countries in the Region have expressed interest in using it not only for disease surveillance and control, but for environmental issues, disasters, and other events as well.
The cost of implementing the system is low since there is no need to invest in special equipment. Any cell phone can be used to send a text message, and the data is transmitted to computers in which the free software is installed.
This system responds to objective 2.2 of the Strategy and Plan of Action on eHealth for the Americas, which seeks to "promote the use of epidemiological surveillance services, including the human-animal interface, through the use of information and communication technologies".
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