Smartphones for community health in rural Cambodia: A feasibility study
Ngor P., White L., Chalk J., Lubell Y., Favede C., Cheah P-Y., Nguon C., Ly P., Maude R., Sovannaroth S., Day N., Dunachie S.
Background: Village Malaria Workers (VMWs) are lay people trained to provide a valuable role in frontline testing and treatment of malaria in rural villages in Cambodia. Emergence of artemisinin-resistant malaria highlights the essential role of such VMWs in surveillance and early treatment of malaria. Smartphone technology offers huge potential to support VMWs in isolated and resource-poor settings. Methods: We investigated the feasibility of issuing established VMWs with a smartphone, bespoke Android application and solar charger to support their role. 27 VMWs in Kampong Cham and Kratie provinces participated. Results: 26/27 of the smartphones deployed were working well at study completion twelve months later. Interviews with VMWs using quantitative and qualitative methods revealed pride, ease of use and reports of faster communication with the smartphone. VMWs also expressed a strong wish to help people presenting with non-malarial fever, for which further potential supportive smartphone applications are increasingly available. Conclusions: As a result of this pilot study, two smartphone based reporting systems for malaria have been developed at the Cambodian National Malaria Center, and the programme is now being extended nationwide. The full code for the smartphone application is made available to other researchers and healthcare providers with this article. Smartphones represent a feasible platform for developing the VMW role to include other health conditions, thus maintaining the relevance of these important community health workers.