Uganda Using Mobile Technology To Improve Health Services

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Most Ugandans have cell phones, and the technology has became the basis of an effective health management system that allows Ugandans to engage with their service providers and report outbreaks such as ebola.

Uganda’s mobile phone-based health management system, M-Trac, is credited with changing the face of health service delivery in the country, according to a report in eNewsChannelAfrica.

At Uganda’s many remote health centers, pen and paper were the only way to alert health officials to problems such as drug shortages or outbreaks of malaria.

The government, assisted by UNICEF and World Health Organization, implemented an innovative solution. Using M-Trac, healthcare staff gather information and then use SMS (short message service) to get the messages to a central data hub.

“Previously if a facility had a drug stock out, they would have to wait three or four months for the next drug supply,” said Davis Musinguzi of UNICEF. “Now the district can look at his M-Trac dashboard and identify which facilities have sufficient and which ones have a stock out and will be able to do a redistribution in his own district.”

During ebola outbreaks in 2012, messages were sent to thousands of health workers in affected districts. They were told about precautionary treatment and sent updates on new outbreaks.

M-Trac also has an anonymous hotline that the community can use to report absenteeism and clinics closed during working hours.

“M-trac has done a lot of good because before there was no platform where the community engages with the service provider. So it has also created more awareness of the community of their rights,” said Diana Atwinel with Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi’s office.

By the end of 2012, 2,500 health facilities and more than 5,000 health workers were participating in M-Trac.

Uganda recently received the African Development Bank’s eHealth award for its M-Trac health management system.