The surgery to treat trachoma itself is straightforward, taking around 20 minutes. But, when it comes to bringing patients back for check-ups – which are critical to ensure that the surgery has been successful, and that they are no longer at risk of going blind – the process can be challenging.
The TT Tracker, a smartphone-based app, helps health workers to collect and analyse information about patients’ operations and how they went. It helps them locate those who are in need of follow-up visits, and gives them an up-to-date view of TT work and outcomes.
The only way to treat trachomatous trichiasis (TT), the advanced form of trachoma, is to operate. However, those most affected by the disease often live in remote places, miles away from the nearest health clinic. Returning to visit the surgeon could mean a long journey, and in nomadic communities, families might have moved further away between appointments. This can make it hard to monitor patient recovery and assess any additional care needs.
Sightsavers developed the TT Tracker in response to a World Health Organization (WHO) convening that highlighted this issue among others in 2015.
The advanced stage of trachoma is called trachomatous trichiasis (TT). This causes the eyelashes to turn inwards and scrape the eyeball. Not only is this incredibly painful, it can lead to irreversible blindness.More about trachoma
Patients’ data is collected when they first register for surgery, and then throughout their treatment journey. This includes their appointment on the day of their surgery and three follow-up appointments.
Based on the information collected, the TT Tracker sends online and email updates to staff, telling them which patients need to be followed up with and when. Even if different stages of a patient’s treatment journey happen in different locations with different medical teams, the surgeon in charge of their care has easy access to all the information they need through the app.
As well as supporting individual patients, the TT Tracker helps programmes understand how well surgeons are performing. And it gathers information on patient demographics, the number of patients and surgeries, the status of follow-up appointments and surgical outcomes, which is all updated daily and stored securely. Because the data is collected in a centralised system, country governments can use it to inform future work – most importantly, to support the goal of trachoma elimination.
We are using the TT Tracker in five countries and are working to bring its benefits to more parts of the world. Our goal is to roll out similar apps for surgeries that treat other widespread health conditions, such as hydrocele caused by the neglected tropical disease lymphatic filariasis, as well as cataracts. More in-depth resources on the app are available here.
Find out more about the TT tracker by watching the video below.
Zakari is part of our vital mobile eye health team who carried out the first sight-saving TT surgeries in Borgou, a remote area in northern Benin, under the Accelerate programme. Find out how Zakari and others are using the app to save people's sight.Read their stories
Since 2012, Sightsavers has been using smartphones to collect high-quality data, so that countries can effectively map the disease and focus their elimination efforts.
Sightsavers’ Simon Bush has received a lifetime achievement award for his work on river blindness, and has been named president of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
Hear first-hand how people’s lives have been transformed now that trachoma has been eliminated in the country.