IEEE launches major e-health pilot in India

Last September, we reported on the successful launch of the IEEE Humanitarian Technology Challenge RFID Individual Tracking and Records Management (RFID-ITRM) pilot in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). We are pleased to announce that a second and larger test-bed for this project has successfully deployed in Ahmedabad, India, an impoverished slum community of about 100,000 people. The system is allowing health care workers to track patients in the city and is saving and improving lives every day. A video of the solution is available here.

RFID-ITRM technology is central to preventing medical errors, identifying victims of natural disasters, and tracking and monitoring diseases and outbreaks, as well as infants and vaccination history. Several operational components are involved. An electronic medical record system is installed in a local community health care center. Members of the community are given RFID chips embedded in ID cards that allow community health care workers to update their patient information into the system using mobile RFID devices that can read the patients’ RFID chips. The technology continuously updates and tracks patient health records in the electronic medical record system.

The system, managed by local NGO Manav Sadhna, deployed in a clinic in Ahmedabad in December 2011 and has been successful to date. Community health workers provide door-to-door service and use mobile devices to identify individuals via RFID cards tagged to an individual record on the system.

“The records part of the system is providing a history of patients’ illnesses and medications, hence minimizing errors and facilitating better health care,” says Dr. Ali Zalzala, an IEEE volunteer and lead for the project. “The RFID tracking part of the system in providing an identification mechanism and allowing field workers better interaction with clinic doctors.”

The IEEE Computational Intelligence Society, whose Evolutionary Computation Technical Committee is directly involved with advising the solution team on the theory and implementation of the system’s CI-component, has been vital in supporting the project. The solution team oversees the tests and local volunteers are involved in fieldwork.

“This initiative is a systems integration project, including software/hardware development, management frameworks, and algorithms development,” says Zalzala. “Computational Intelligence is an effective approach to data mining, and there is a great deal of data to analyze in this project.”

The final target for the pilot is to establish around 15 clinics in the slum, according to Zalzala. He and others involved in the project are working with a local hospital to become the central hub for outreach to these clinics. If efforts continue to be successful, the e-health system will eventually serve the entire community of around 100,000 people. Currently, it is expanding into a second health clinic in Ahmedabad, with more planned.

Partners assisting with the solution’s deployment include Vodafone Americas Foundation, Institute of Management Technology, and American University in the Emirates.

The IEEE Humanitarian Technology Challenge, or HTC, is a part of Engineering for Change, in which IEEE is a supporter. Engineering for Change provides a forum to connect, collaborate, solve challenges and share knowledge among a growing community of engineers, technologists, social scientists, NGOs, local governments and community advocates, who are dedicated to improving the quality of life all over the world.