Our software allows community health workers (CHWs) to use our pocket-sized fingerprint scanner to identify individuals and instantly retrieve their medical records onto their smartphones, allowing for more informed decision making and improved health outcomes.
The health infrastructure of Tamil Nadu in southern India relies heavily on CHWs who make home visits to rural communities throughout the region. These programs have been found to substantially improve key health indicators, for example reducing maternal mortality and the burden of childhood illnesses.
However, many people in developing counties, especially in rural communities such as those in Tamil Nadu, do not have official forms of identification. In 2000, 40 percent of the births in developing countries were not registered by any form of identification. This statistic rises to more than 70 percent in the least-developed countries. Many development organisations therefore face a basic problem: The inability to name, locate and recollect those they are trying to help.
mHealth – the use of health care software on mobile devices like smartphones – has already revolutionized health care systems, and most countries support at least four mHealth initiatives. However, they are still limited by and vulnerable to misidentification arising from common community names, unknown dates of birth and human error.
SimPrints has developed a pocket-sized fingerprint scanner that instantly links an individual’s fingerprint to his or her health records. The Bluetooth-enabled scanner allows CHWs in the field to make better decisions by providing immediate and reliable access to critical medical information. A simple finger swipe is all it takes to find out, for instance, which vaccines someone has received and which remain to be administered. The software plugs into virtually any mHealth tool, allowing the SimPrints system to integrate easily with existing health systems.
There are two reasons Ford's OpenXC platform could enhance our mobile health biometric platform.
First, integrating biometrics into mobile healthcare applications has the potential to greatly increase the ability of CHWs to identify and verify patient care. However the small, low-power smartphones typically use by CHWs on foot in the field (E.g. Samsung galaxy running ODK) lack the battery and processing power to do biometric matching with large database offline. However if these databases can be carried close to the point of care in mobile health vehicles and then accessed through OpenXC integrated with our platform, the potential exists to quickly match from huge databases of patients offline in even the most remote settings. This would be a game-changer for health initiatives that have to track large, spread out patient populations like national HIV programs or multi-drug resistant tuberculosis initiatives.
Second, biometrics coupled with OpenXC could greatly improve medical supply chain challenges. For example, maintaining a consistent vaccine cold chain in transport is critical to immunizations saving lives in the field. However "signing-off" vaccine deliveries or verifying patients have received vaccines is typically done with paper-based signatures that don't return to the central distribution head offices for weeks. This makes it far too late to catch problems or cold chain failures as they emerge. An OpenXC integrated health platform with biometrics could capture and instantly share critical information with health managers like who is receiving vaccinations, what temperatures are they stored at in transit, and are they reaching the right patients in the field. This data could massively improve the effectiveness and accountability of cold chains in real time, saving the lives of children through better vaccination coverage.