Digital tools are helping Sightsavers’ teams to collect and use quality data to increase the efficiency of our programmes, improve patient care and reduce costs.
Here you can learn more about our use of technology in programmes around the world, and how this approach is helping to save sight.
Real-time monitoring of mass NTD treatment distribution
Many of our neglected tropical disease programmes use mass drug administration (MDA), in which entire populations are treated with medication. These MDAs take place within local communities, making it historically difficult to monitor treatment and distribution. Our MDA real-time reporting platform offers much greater visibility: if an area is behind target, for example, we can investigate any issues and attempt to solve them as soon as possible, while the campaign is still under way. This has significantly improved the quality and timeliness of our data, as well as our ability to supervise the activities, and means far fewer drugs are wasted.
Patient tracking applications
Our work began with the TT Tracker, built to help surgeons, assistants and supervisors to collect and analyse information about trachomatous trichiasis (TT) surgery and performance, and to determine when and where follow-up appointments are needed. Data is collected using smartphones, with supervisors accessing reports online and via email. Now used in multiple countries, this patient tracking app has been adapted to be used in both paediatric cataract programmes (CataTrack) and hydrocele programmes (Hydrocele Tracker).
Sightsavers has adopted one centralised system to manage mobile survey data collection and data visualisation across our programmes. This cross-cutting approach includes surveys undertaken in our eye health, NTD and research activities – from rapid assessment of avoidable blindness surveys to treatment coverage evaluation surveys to research in political participation and more, administering surveys digitally increases efficiency and reduces errors.
India’s National Truckers Eye Health Programme
Poor eyesight could be putting almost half of India’s truck drivers at risk, but their transient lifestyle, lack of free time and limited income mean having their eyes checked is a challenge. So Sightsavers created a system that takes eye care services directly to them. All the camps are in areas where drivers stop as part of their usual route. Drivers’ details are digitally uploaded using tablets and they are given an ID card featuring a QR code, which they can take to any site along their route and pick up their treatment where they left off.
Global Trachoma Mapping Project
Our most successful mHealth project to date has been the Global Trachoma Mapping Project (GTMP), the largest infectious disease survey ever undertaken. Partnering with 53 organisations, Sightsavers led a coalition to collect and transmit data on 2.6 million people in 29 countries using smartphones. The project came to an end in early 2016.
Created with partners including the World Health Organization, Tropical Data is a mobile-based data-collection initiative that uses the same approach and technology as the Global Trachoma Mapping Project. Tropical Data helps countries carry out surveys as they work towards eliminating trachoma. Almost 2,300 surveys in 47 countries have already taken place.
Using the many lessons learned from GTMP and Tropical Data, we piloted standardised digital data collection tools for river blindness in collaboration with partners and ministries of health in Ghana and Nigeria. Following the successful pilots in Ghana and Nigeria, the results were presented to WHO by each country, and the methodology is being scaled up for use in Mozambique.
Inclusive eye health
We define inclusive eye health as services that are sustainable, accessible and planned with gender and disability considerations in mind. In 2018 we began collecting patient data for eye health programmes in Mozambique, Pakistan and Bangladesh using mobile devices. Each patient surveyed will have an eye health assessment, and their disability status determined using the Washington Group short set of questions. This will be used as comparative data to measure the success of the project.
Using WASH data to combat NTDs
Good water, sanitation and hygiene are key to preventing the spread of certain NTDs. This is why joined-up working between NTD programmes and the WASH sector is crucial. Sightsavers is supporting a number of countries to merge WASH data with other information about NTDs. Data from both areas is then analysed together, turning the information into knowledge that will lead to more effective NTD and WASH programmes, and greater collaboration between key players.
Strengthening NTD data systems
It is vital to have accurate, timely data that can be accessed by everyone involved in NTD work. Sightsavers is working to improve in-country data warehouses to aggregate programmatic data. A key part of this work is training people how to manage, access and use data to inform programmatic decision-making, ensuring that NTD programmes become as effective as possible.
GIS and mapping
Geographic information systems (GIS) capture, analyse and present all types of geographical data. Sightsavers is now using GIS in many targeted programmes, including guiding field teams to reach hard-to-find settlements for treatment, mapping barriers faced by young people with disabilities, and predictive modelling to help ministries know the locations at most risk of non-inclusive programming.