Guardian: Fast mobile-based messaging service boosts healthcare and cuts costs

After the free SMS software FrontlineSMS:Medic was used to track outbreaks of tuberculosis, the local hospital saved $3,500 in costs (mostly in fuel) and some 2,100 hours in travel and work time across six months, while at the same time the number of tuberculosis patients treated was doubled. The cost to the hospital of using the SMS messaging tool to gather health data was just $250 over the same period in text-messaging charges. "The community health workers were able to get the information to the right people about symptoms much faster," says Josh Nesbit, executive director of FrontlineSMS:Medic. "Now all patient follow-up is based on SMS messages, which means that less patients are dropping out of their drug programmes because they forget or don't know where to get the drugs."

Nesbit is developing other uses for mobile phones and SMS software, including a monitoring system that is using artificial intelligence software to auto-categorise messages sent from healthcare workers in the field. The idea is to catch symptoms across a number of languages and spellings (or misspellings) to detect outbreaks of diseases or hotspots for HIV/Aids, for example.

Read more on the Guardian website.