Wireless networks for surveillance, data capture and data management in the human immunodeficiency virus epidemic care and treatment programmes.
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Biomedical and demographic data capture and the subsequent management of such information are critical factors in the implementation of any level of healthcare prevention and treatment program. The developing world is seriously handicapped by lack of infrastructure to acquire such data let alone manipulate the information banks for projections, forecasting and priority project planning. With this in mind we set about to use the recent proliferation of wireless cellular networks and easily accessible Personal Digital Assistants (PDA), to devise a means of collecting such data even from the most remote primary healthcare facility. Our priority is aimed at initially at providing a support technology for the HIV expanded program. This technology can be implemented in the absence of computerization and regular power supply. Utilizing a PDA to capture patient data (demographic, clinical and laboratory parameters), the healthcare giver can use a wireless link between the PDA and a cellular phone to transfer the data to a central medical data base. These can then become permanent and secure data banks for future use by health providers, either at the same location or at other health facility that have authorized access to the data bank. It also affords a platform for integrating reference labs into the network as well as the opportunity to disseminate continuing medical educational material. The network can also be adapted to electronic remote consultations and eventually its data banks can be assimilated into protocols of artificial intelligence and data mining.