To give you a better idea of our work in Benin, we would like to start by providing an overview of what we hope to accomplish over the course of this project.
The actual project will run for the next six months, though we will only be on the ground for the first three weeks. The project is funded primarily by the Blue Sky Foundation. The overall goal of the project is to install a system in each of 24 health clinics, to train health workers on the use of the system and to capture six months of data on which we can run analyses. Once we get the systems installed and the workers trained, we expect that the systems can operate independently (i.e. without hands-on intervention from us) through the end of the project. Below is a list of our key objectives for the project.
- Determine biometric reliability rate. One of the key novel features of our system is a biometric algorithm specifically designed for infant and young child (<5 yrs) populations. We can run computer simulations with old collected data sets, but there is no substitute for analysis run on hard data captured in the field. In fact, our reliability rate–as calculated through simulations–is over 99%. In other words, how do issues seen in the physical world (dirty or damaged fingerprints, missing fingers, health workers being responsible for acquiring the fingerprints) affect the reliability?
- Evaluate the system from a human factors perspective. The success of our system is ultimately defined by the extent to which front-line health workers welcome and champion its use in their everyday work. To ensure complete buy-in from those health workers, we need to make the system easy to use. We also need to make sure it does not put any increased burden on already overworked individuals. As it is designed, it should actually make the health workers’ jobs easier, by reducing the amount of time required to gather and record information on each patient.
- Evaluate our training materials and processes. We face the difficult but necessary task of training nearly 150 health workers on how to use the system. These health workers represent a wide array of skills and capabilities. Some will be professionally trained doctors with proficient English and computer literacy. Others will be teenagers with no formal medical training, no familiarity with computers and a complete lack of English. Everyone on this spectrum of ability and training needs to be able to use the system capably.
- Identify the obstacles we might face and the resources we will require to scale up. It is not overly difficult to deploy 20 or so systems (although you may want to ask us again near the end of this project). A small team can install all of the units and train the health workers. However, serious issues arise when we start thinking about how to scale up to 200 clinics or even 2,000 clinics. Do we need full-time, local staff to manage the network of systems? Is the large financial commitment of putting a computer in every clinic more than offset by the financial benefit from reduced vaccine wastage?