Guardian: Free text messages save lives in Malawi

FrontlineSMS:Medic is relatively straightforward and, apparently, effective. Community health workers, most of whom had never seen a mobile phone, let alone owned one, were trained to send text messages containing medical information back to the hospital staff.

If health workers sent a drug name in a text, the system would automatically respond with information on dosages and usage. Health workers can also give status updates on particular patients or make a call for further medical information to help them treat cases on the go. It is particularly important in a country where HIV and Aids are rife – with infection rates as high as 70% in some areas.

"If you ask the community health workers why they are doing their work, it's because friends and family were literally dropping dead around them and they wanted to do what they could to help," says Nesbit. "Basically they had all of the ethos, but didn't have the connection to the real resources at the hospital."

This is a screenshot of the Guardian article about FrontlineSMSThe pilot project, which has been running for five months, has already had a significant impact: as well as getting emergency medical attention for 130 people who would have otherwise gone unseen, it has allowed the hospital's tuberculosis officer to treat twice as many people because his time can now be more used more efficiently.

The system, which costs around $500 (£349) to operate, has also had a financial benefit, which is particularly important in a place where resources are severely strained. Two members of staff estimate that they will each save around $5,000 a year in fuel costs alone.

Read more on the Guardian website.