Global Health Ideas

Finding global health solutions through innovation and technology

Solar power and Mbarara update

This is the second of two posts from UC Berkeley doctoral student Melissa Ho.  Melissa is working on the Blum Center’s initiatives in six African countries.  She’s got a few posts about the OBA work and I’m cross posting them.

Solar power and Mbarara update:

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, with not nearly enough access to internet cafes!

This week I am back in Mbarara, currently using the computer science lab (which is empty because the students are all doing exams now), but also meeting with various professors here (again!) and working with Ben and Richard on the Smartphones for OBA project.

The major update is that we are now collaborating with the Faculty of Science at Mbarara (Physics Dept) to figure out solar power options for the health clinics participating in the OBA program. They are currently engaged in research evaluating the degradation of imported solar panels and are the perfect collaborators for this project. They also have experience with circuit-soldering, so they’ll try to use Manuel’s solar charge controllers both for their own experiments and our project.

We also visited the Marie Stopes International Uganda office and one of the Marie Stopes Uganda clinics. They are currently using the VMUS database developed by Microcare, and have two people entering the data from the (triplicate-carbon-copy) forms that are collected from the various clinics participating in the OBA program. Right now the system is down, so the forms are piling up, and they are entering the data into Excel, so they can process the reimbursements. I’ll head back there today or tomorrow to hammer on the SmartForm and figure out exactly what it should look like. At the clinic we spoke to Steven about his experience participating in the program. The major issues he identified are timeliness of reimbursement processing, limitations on the range of treatment options (if someone is diagnosed with a non-STI bacterial infection then they have to pay for treatment in addition to what they paid for the voucher, although I think the consult is covered), and patients coming in with vouchers that clearly don’t have an STI, and therefore are not eligible for subsidized treatment.  So there is a need for better and clearer marketing.  Richard suggested giving distributors placards that (literate) patients can read so they know what services the voucher will cover.  They also have problems with people going to multiple centers, and not having documentation for previous visits, or buying multiple vouchers and having tests done unnecessarily.   We hope that with the SmartForms project we’ll be able to address some of these issues, by making voucher records more accessible, and improving the communications process around the form submissions.  There’s lots of ideas flying around and a lot of work to do!

For the rest of the week (before I take off for Ghana) Richard and Ben and I will be visiting the various health clinics and talking to them about the project, getting a feel for their willingness/interest, as well as the environment in which the phones would be deployed.  We’ll start testing/piloting in August when I get back.

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Written by Ben

June 12, 2007 at 1:54 am

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