PatientView brings digital health records to the developing world via mobile phones

PatientView, software that allows health clinics to create and keep track of patient and physician records anywhere there’s a mobile signal, launched its beta today. Relying on text messages and a simple interface, it could change the way health care is administered in rural, and especially developing, regions of the world.

PatientView is a plugin for FrontlineSMS, open-source software that lets users send text messages and receive them from large groups of people. It stores all of the phone numbers and all incoming and outgoing messages, creating an archive of information — ideal for medical applications. FrontlineSMS has offered up its flexible source code to encourage innovations like PatientView.

With the plugin, health clinics that have no access to the internet except through their mobile phones, can still manage their day-to-day operations, including appointments, patient communication and record keeping. It makes contact information for everyone searchable, and all records are indexed and can be sorted in different ways.

Phones are quickly becoming people’s primary screens in Africa, India and parts of Southeast Asia. Users rely on them for internet access, and, usually, as a single channel of interaction with the important contacts in their lives, like their doctors and community health practitioners. PatientView is capitalizing on this trend.

But the plugin can also be used on a computer — which could serve as a central hub of information. The demo of the product below shows off this model, including how text messages can be sent from the computer interface directly to physicians’ and patients’ phones.

In one example, a patient record indicates that she hasn’t had an appointment for three weeks. The PatientView system lets you find the relevant community health worker, and then text him to suggest that he figure out where this particular patient might be.

All of this data flying over wireless networks inevitably raises questions of privacy and security. Password protection, role-restricted access and other measures have been baked into the beta in order to ensure a high degree of safety, the developers say.

PatientView is currently being tested in a partner clinic in Mali, but the developers are encouraging as many people as possible to download the software and check out the features so that they can collect feedback and continue improving the product before broader deployment.

Here’s the demo released today with the beta:

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