Hacking for Disease Surveillance in Southeast Asia

This week, the Skoll Global Threats Fund has been been sponsoring a three-day hackathon, “EpiHack,” in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Along with local partners InSTEDD, Change Fusion, Opendream, and the Royal University of Phnom Penh, we have gathered 60 leading technical developers and global health experts to address the important, borderless issue of disease surveillance in Southeast Asia. We have been building out five prototype projects to incorporate participatory, or crowd-sourced, disease surveillance into the region.


During the first day of EpiHack, we broke out into smaller groups based on interests and skills and designed roadmaps for these five prototype projects. Then we moved on to real “hacking” to incorporate participatory surveillance into these existing systems. Below are descriptions of the five projects.

The Cohort for Pandemic Influenza in Laos (CoPanFlu Laos) is a laboratory-based system first implemented in Vientiane, Laos, in 2009 to investigate 2009 A(H1N1) influenza seroconversion rates and their determinants within an unvaccinated population. CoPanFlu Laos follows a general population cohort of 807 households and 4,072 participants that was established in March 2010. Sociodemographic data, epidemiological data, and capillary blood samples have been collected from all the household members on two occasions in the past.

DoctorMe is the first mobile application for health in Thailand on the IOS and Android systems. Initially, DoctorMe was created in 2011 to promote good health care and first aid for all people in Thailand. The original version was designed to be an electronic health manual with a database of more than 1,000 hospitals in Thailand for users to locate a nearby hospital when needed. The new version of DoctorMe includes an application designed to connect the user with the National Institute for Emergency Medicine (NIEM), offering free services by sending an ambulance instantly when you call 1669. Push notification is also being used in this version to keep people alert about health care issues.

ILI Surveillance – BOE
The Bureau of Epidemiology in Thailand set up web-based reporting for Influenza like Illness (ILI) with 987 government hospitals around the country. The project was established in 2009, with the hospitals submitting the number of ILIs weekly. A system analyst then sends back the results of national statistics coming into the ILI system to the hospital and other responsible people in the area via the Internet, email, and SMS for up-to-date information on the flu situation week by week.

Maetao Clinic
The Maetao Clinic is a health provider and training center based in Mae Sot, near the Myanmar-Thailand border. Maetao was established to contribute to and promote accessible, quality health care among displaced Burmese and other ethnic peoples in this border location. The Maetao Clinic provides health care to 100,000 patients per year. The group has developed an electronic medical record that could be a good data source for disease surveillance.

Voice to voice interaction remains the most effective and primary form of human communication for both health care service providers and vulnerable groups who live in rural Cambodia. Due to poor network connectivity and literacy barriers, rural Cambodians are inhibited from using many technologies. In September 2012, with funding from Spider (The Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions), the InSTEDD iLab Southeast Asia introduced and extended Verboice, an open-source tool developed by InSTEDD to support health, safety and sustainable development programs in Cambodia. Verboice makes it easy for anyone to create and run applications that interact via voice, allowing people to listen and record messages in their own language and dialect, or answer questions with a phone keypad.

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