Guest Post by Joseph Agoada, Global Communication Lead at InSTEDD
Since early 2015, the iLab Southeast Asia (iLab SEA) has supported the Cambodian Ministry of Health’s Center for Disease Control (Cambodian CDC) in an effort to improve the country’s ability to monitor and track disease spread. In January of 2016, the collaboration resulted in the launch of “115,” a free public national disease reporting hotline that is accessible by dialing the number 115. The hotline was built with SGTF grantee, InSTEDD’s open source mobile and web interactive voice response tool Verboice, and is available to anyone in the country with a phone and mobile network coverage.
The hotline allows for the general public to call and report an alert of a possible outbreak and get information posted by the Cambodian CDC. It is becoming especially valuable to frontline health workers responsible for reporting of infectious disease information on a weekly basis. With their mobile phones and the hotline, health workers can digitally document and report disease data to their districts, a job that previously required time intensive administrative paperwork and often long distance travel on challenging roads and inclement weather.
This past May we visited the Cambodian CDC Director, Dr. Ly Sovann, and 115 project lead, Dr. Sok Samnang, at the Ministry of Health offices in Phnom Penh. Dr. Sovann and Dr. Samnang shared that the project was having extremely promising initial results. Reports from district health centers, where workers were trained on using 115, were showing signs of increased timeliness, accuracy and frequency. Another unexpected benefit observed was a significant morale boost among health workers. The particularly laborious task of weekly reporting, which usually took painstaking paperwork, could now be done in under thirty minutes.
The improvements in speed of sending information to the national level ministry and the productivity of health workers are many positive signals for the 115 line. This progress, however, is just the beginning. Trainings for building the capacity of health workers to utilize the hotline are starting to roll out across the country. Furthermore, integration of the reporting systems with other disease databases are also underway.
When expanded, refined, and streamlined with national reporting systems, the 115 line will be able to deliver near real-time information to public health decision makers tasked with mobilizing limited resources and stopping outbreaks before they claim lives. While challenges lay ahead, the InSTEDD iLab team in Cambodia is motivated by the vision of scaling the use of the hotline beyond Cambodia’s borders. Neighboring countries in the region are taking notice of the power behind a free to the public, open source disease reporting hotline.
The 115 project was made possible with funding from the Skoll Global Threats Fund.
To get a firsthand account of 115 see the photo essay from the iLab Southeast Asia. For more information on the work of InSTEDD visit their homepage and follow them on Twitter.