Project Details

Two young TB patients


Fingertip tech to fight tuberculosis

By Operation Asha

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Project Twitter: @operationASHA

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  • Community Engagement
  • Health
  • Data
  • Mobile

eCompliance represents a huge technological leap in the fight against one of the world’s oldest, and biggest, infectious killers: tuberculosis, a disease which needlessly claims the lives of 1.4 million people annually.

One of the biggest priorities for those trying to fight the pandemic is to prevent the rise of new drug-resistant-strains of the disease: strains that demand much lengthier, costly and toxic treatment to cure than straight TB.

MDR-TB is an entirely man-made, 21st century phenomenon, created from patients’ failure to complete their first TB treatment regimens. There were 3 million cases of MDR-TB in 2013, costing an estimated $16 billion to treat, and India has the highest prevalence of any country in the world. The World Health Organisation (WHO) adopted Directly Observed Therapy (DOTs) to try to halt MDR-TB’s rise in 1996. However, TB patients continue to default on their treatment with alarming frequency — fail rates can be as high as 60%. 

OpASHA’s biggest innovation is eCompliance, a portable biometric identification system capable of identifying each patient by their unique fingerprint and compiling patient adherence data.  Whenever a new patient is enrolled, his fingerprints are saved in the system. The patient has to give a fingerprint every time s/he consumes a dose. This is an indisputable proof of the provider having met the patient.

When a patient misses a scheduled dose, the system sends the provider and program manager a text message. The provider has to do the required follow-up in the next 48 hours in the patient’s home, and again take a fingerprint before giving the medicine and repeat education. This prevents any dose from being missed.

The system was developed as a collaboration between Microsoft Research and Operation ASHA in 2009 – 2010. There are now 159 eCompliance terminals running in 136 centres throughout India with over 220,000 visits logged. Operation ASHA runs the programme via community hubs in slums, and with a network of rural health-workers who carry medications to patients in isolated areas by bike or motorbike. The default rate for patients on the eCompliance programme is an amazingly low 1.5%.

‘While there is no silver bullet in the fight against global poverty, I am continually inspired by the tireless efforts and impact of our community partners, and it is my deepest desire to use every technology at our disposal to make sure their efforts count,’ says Bill Thies, Microsoft Research. ‘Working together, we may be able to win the fight – even against adversaries as daunting as tuberculosis.’

eCompliance has been rolled out for nearly 9,900 TB patients so far in India, Cambodia, Uganda, Dominican Republic and Kenya.

Image courtesy of eCompliance

Last updated: 14th of July, 2014

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