From Biometrac: With a Little Help From Our Friends: the Power of Working Together


The following blog post is by Trisha Finnegan, the Managing Director of Biometrac. In the following blog post, Ms. Finnegan recounts Biometrac’s experience working with Dimagi on a health project in Uganda. 

We salute those who believe in the collective, the power of working together, harnessing our unique individual capabilities to go further than any of us can alone. And, it was in the spirit of collaborating and working together that Biometrac had the great pleasure of joining Dimagi on an initiative launching in Uganda.

The project, being led by Dr. Luke Davis of University of California San Francisco and Dr. Achilles Katamba of Makerere University in Uganda, is focused on finding undiagnosed tuberculosis patients in high-burden communities and linking them to treatment in health facilities. It is part of a larger collaboration between the two universities under the umbrella of the Uganda TB Surveillance Project (UTBSP) and administered by the Infectious Diseases Research Collaboration (IDRC).

For this initiative, Dimagi’s CommCare system is the platform of choice for storing information on participants across the broad clinic network in the region. CommCare is making it possible for investigators to efficiently conduct this community based research and implementation. However, a key challenge to ensuring quality data in this instance was rapid and accurate identification, according to Luke. Realizing the importance of individual identification over the length of this effort, Dimagi partnered with Biometrac to provide electronic fingerprinting and matching technology.

Biometrac is a socially-focused enterprise that has been working on health initiatives in low-resource settings since 2010. We have used our expertise in mobile-enabled identification solutions combined with our experience in limited-infrastructure environments to develop user-friendly tools that are enabling quality and increasing access to health care for those most difficult to reach. For UTBSP, incorporating electronic fingerprints makes it possible to link new patients from the community to their test results in the clinic so that health workers can facilitate their evaluation and treatment. Fingerprinting also makes the randomized controlled trial more generalizable and more efficient by allowing the investigators to track participants across a broad clinic network with reduced losses to follow-up. In short, better data leads to better care.

By using APIs for each system to make it possible to easily pass data between the two applications, we combined the robust mHealth capabilities of CommCare and the biometric-based identification solutions of Biometrac, resulting in a system that met the needs of the UTBSP effort. And, with each partner bringing their expertise and capabilities to the shared effort, the result is significantly lower cost and more readily available than any one organization building a custom system that would meet all the needs.

We celebrate the pioneering spirit of Makerere University and UCSF, the collaboration of Dimagi and the willingness for each of us to pull together to contribute to improving health where it is needed most. Each of us realize it isn’t about being able to do it all, it is about working together to effectively help solve challenges in global health. So, with thanks to David Mark and the team at Dimagi (Clayton Sims, Will Pride and Andrea Fletcher), the UTBSP program is launching in Kampala. We look very forward to continuing to creatively, effectively and efficiently work together to solve challenges in global health.




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