Managing research and surveillance projects in real-time with a novel open-source eManagement tool designed for under-resourced countries

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Abstract

Objective A software tool is developed to facilitate data entry and to monitor research projects in under-resourced countries in real-time.

Methods The eManagement tool “odk_planner” is written in the scripting languages PHP and Python. The odk_planner is lightweight and uses minimal internet resources. It was designed to be used with the open source software Open Data Kit (ODK). The users can easily configure odk_planner to meet their needs, and the online interface displays data collected from ODK forms in a graphically informative way. The odk_planner also allows users to upload pictures and laboratory results and sends text messages automatically. User-defined access rights protect data and privacy.

Results We present examples from four field applications in Tanzania successfully using the eManagement tool: 1) clinical trial; 2) longitudinal Tuberculosis (TB) Cohort Study with a complex visit schedule, where it was used to graphically display missing case report forms, upload digitalized X-rays, and send text message reminders to patients; 3) intervention study to improve TB case detection, carried out at pharmacies: a tablet-based electronic referral system monitored referred patients, and sent automated messages to remind pharmacy clients to visit a TB Clinic; and 4) TB retreatment case monitoring designed to improve drug resistance surveillance: clinicians at four public TB clinics and lab technicians at the TB reference laboratory used a smartphone-based application that tracked sputum samples, and collected clinical and laboratory data.

Conclusions The user friendly, open source odk_planner is a simple, but multi-functional, Web-based eManagement tool with add-ons that helps researchers conduct studies in under-resourced countries.

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