In 1993 the World Health Organization introduced Directly Observed Therapy (DOTS) for treating tuberculosis in order to prevent multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) strands that develop when patients do not complete their full treatment cycle. While DOTS improves tuberculosis treatment by enforcing the completion of the six-month course, MDR-TB still remains a threat in many parts of the world, including India.
Operation ASHA is an NGO that strives to eliminate this lingering threat of tuberculosis altogether. To expedite their mission, they have partnered with Microsoft Research and Innovators in Health to develop a biometric identification system referred to as eDOTS. This system works using fingerprint reading technology to monitor individual patients and ensure that they receive their scheduled doses. Before receiving treatment, the patient’s finger is scanned, and the information is stored on a small laptop computer. At the end of the day, the information is sent via SMS to a central database where the logs are processed and made into reports.
If a patient’s data is missing on a particular day, an SMS will be sent back to the counselors working remotely throughout the country. These counselors will then follow up with the missing patients, conduct a home visit bringing the portable eCompliance system along, and counsel the patient on the danger of missing a scheduled dose.
Today OpASHA has more than 200 DOTS treatement centers throughout India and Cambodia, reaching patients in slums and villages that have never before been able to receive treatment. Their technology-based approach is helping them rapidly improve the rate of treatment completion. Having installed the first eCompliance system in March 2010, they now have 39 terminals in 26 centers in South Delhi and Jaipur. As the eDOTS system expands, OpASHA will not only be able to reduce the threat of dangerous drug-resistant strands of tuberculosis, but also improve the efficiency and accuracy of data collection and analysis on individual patients across the world. As its technological approach continues to facilitate an increase in patient outreach and easy patient monitoring, OpASHA moves us all closer to a tuberculosis free world.
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