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Self Diagnosing Phone Service

Shortage of health care workers and long distances makes women hesitate to seek medical help. This concept describes how phone guided self diagnosing can help women take the decision to seek help before it is too late.

Photo of Siri Johansson
9 16

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Many developing countries suffers from an immense shortage of health care personnel.

As an example from this WHO article, Malawi has a mere 17 nurses for every 100 000 people. Costs and long traveling distances (+sometimes failing infrastructure) means that a pregnant woman might hesitate for a long time before seeking medical help. How can we help her make that decision sooner, if so needed?

By using a Interactive Voice Response System

we could create a self diagnosing phone service. The service would be tailored for expecting mothers and ask the caller to state symptoms either by voice (name of body parts, yes/no etc.) or by choosing from a list. The inquiries would go further into detail up to a point where a recommendation can be made. In some cases, the caller can be directed to a volunteer or nurse. The human resources can in this way devote their duty time to urgent cases and patients that are hard to diagnose.

Diagnosing is a common application for expert systems. This is an example of how the flow structure of a medical expert system can look

The effect of providing this self diagnosing tool could be some women seeking help sooner, because of explicitly having been told to do so. A suggestion from the phone service might be what makes a woman finally decide, instead of hesitating until it is too late. In other cases, it could decrease the need for (and the expenses associated with) traveling long distances to seek help.

What is the minimum level of mobile technology needed for this concept?

Common phone.

How could this work in a low-literacy context?

The service would be voice based, literacy would not be needed.

Which partners could help realise and deliver this solution?

  • Oxfam
  • Nokia
  • Mobile operators
  • NGOs
  • Government


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Photo of Siri Johansson

Thank you for the great comments and links posted by you guys, I'm sorry I haven't answered back to them earlier. I hope Erika can get something out of this when she goes on to refine her concept

Marie, I really think your build (routine check-ups) could fit nicely into Erika's concept. You clearly point out the need for it and scheduled diagnosing doesn't mean people can't call the service whenever they feel the need for it.

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