Ministry of Health to Citizens: Call Me

Jonathan Cox / Khmer Times No Comments Share:

Tracking infectious disease outbreaks in rural Cambodia is notoriously difficult, but a new system developed by the InSTEDD iLab is making it easier with technology that is common even in rural Cambodia – cell phones. By mixing a hotline disease reporting system with a better health database, InSTEDD is making it easier for the Ministry of Health to track the spread of diseases, while also providing information to citizens about sicknesses to watch out for based on their location. 
 
Users can call the new hotline, launched last Friday, for free from any cell network, at any time, by dialing 115. Then they can either report a case of illness or receive information about infectious diseases in their area. 
 
The previous hotline run by the Ministry of Health relied on staff answering every phone call from a call center, but the new system uses open-source software to automatically record and send voice messages. 
 
This new reporting system serves two purposes. Firstly, it makes it easy for people to call in and get medical information that would otherwise be unavailable to them. It also helps the Ministry of Health track diseases by seeing where callers are reporting certain infectious illnesses. 
 
The system only works if citizens call in to report sicknesses in the first place, though. Tharum Bun, Communications and Digital Media Manager for InSTEDD’s iLab, said that there will be several publicity campaigns encouraging people to take the time to report diseases. “The main message is that everyone can help save lives,” he told Khmer Times.
 
Once the caller finishes the phone call, the data will be fed into a central database. It can then be analyzed to spot and track possible disease outbreaks. Along with the reports of illness sent in by citizens, the system will also record reports by staff from 1,133 health centers around the country. 
 
“All the reports to the hotline…will be connected by a web-based application [as part of the surveillance system], making the data available/accessible in real-time for tracking potential outbreaks,” said Mr. Bun
 
Until now, the only hotline available to citizens was the Ministry of Health hotline. It was a traditional call center that required a staff, and so it was not available 24/7. By using an automated system with recorded messages, the new hotline can enable people to report cases of disease at any time. 
 
Spokesman for the Ministry of Health Ly Sovann said this new software, launched last Friday, will completely change the way health reporting works in Cambodia. “It will improve the surveillance system and allow 24/7 two-way communication between officers and the public,” he said.  
 
The new system builds on the software platform Verboice. Verboice allows users to listen to and record messages in their own language. The new reporting system would be impossible without this open-source software, Mr. Bun said. 
 
“Before, the hotline was not free for call-in. It was managed by the department staff. It was almost impossible to get multiple call reports, and it was not available for 24 hours. The Verboice platform changes all of that. Now it’s possible to accept a large number of simultaneous reports.”
 
 

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