Smartphones are showing promise in disease surveillance in the developing world.
The Kenya Ministry of Health, along with researchers in Kenya for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that smartphone use was cheaper than traditional paper survey methods to gather disease information, after the initial set–up cost. Data from smartphones also had fewer errors and were more quickly available for analyses than data collected on paper.
Researchers compared survey data collection methods at four influenza surveillance sites in Kenya. At each site, patients with respiratory illness was given a brief questionnaire, some collected using traditional paper methods and others collected using HTC Touch Pro2 smartphones.
For two years, the cost of establishing and running a paper–based data collection system was approximately $61,830 compared to approximately $45,546 for a smartphone data collection system. The fixed costs incurred when the systems were first set up were $12,990 for paper and $16,480 for smartphone.
Seven paper–based questionnaires had duplicated patient identification numbers, while no duplication was seen in smartphone data. Smartphone data were uploaded into the database within 8 hours of collection, compared to an average of 24 days for paper-based data to be uploaded.