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OpenCellPager is a new paging system that utilizes cellphone SMS text messaging and a web browser. It is designed for use by hospitals and doctors in regions, such as Africa, where regular paging systems may not be available or are prohibitively expensive. There is already an impressive cellular phone infrastructure in Tanzania and many other parts of Africa, so this paging system could reach interns in the hospital and consultants at home without the need for any new expensive paging infrastructure. Since most doctors carry a cellphone, the technology infrastructure for a cellphone-based paging system already exists. OpenCellPager bridges the gap between this available infrastructure and the need for improved communications in healthcare settings.

Initial support for this project is provided by the generosity of donors of the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding.

Why a paging system for Africa?

OpenCellPager addresses a pressing need in healthcare throughout Africa. Communication is a key element of medicine that is often overlooked but can have a critical impact on all aspects of patient care. Sometimes it can mean the difference between life and death. Improved communication allows available healthcare resources (which are generally very limited in developing countries) to be used more efficiently and effectively.

Why now?

Driven by consumer demand, there is now extensive and affordable cell phone coverage in many parts of Africa, and most doctors already carry a cell phone. Hospitals, on the other hand, typically have no paging systems. OpenCellPager empowers hospitals to take advantage of the existing cell phone infrastructure to set up paging systems easily, quickly and cost-effectively - in fact, at almost no cost. There would be no increased cost to the individual physicians.

Background

OpenCellPager began as a project by Dr. Narath Carlile when he was a medical student at Dartmouth Medical School. He began developing the project during a clinical infectious disease rotation at Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. An initial prototype was developed and successfully field-tested in Tanzania. The project subsequently generated significant interest from physicians, nurses and hospital administrators in Africa and the United States, and also received funding for development which is now being carried forward by a Development Team.

Next steps

Muhimbili National Hospital, a 2000-bed state hospital in Tanzania, East Africa, has committed to being an OpenCellPager pilot location, championed by the Director of Clinical Services. Essential features and user-interface requirements have been elucidated in a user focus group with local physicians, nurses and IT staff. A prototype of the system has been tested. We are currently looking for partners to join us in funding the next stage of development - the OpenCellPager Pilot Project - which begins this month (February 2010) and will last two months, during which we will deliver over 36,000 pages. After this time we hope to be able to offer a tested, usable open-source solution for use in hospitals and clinics throughout Africa.

How you can get involved

Join our discussion group.

Tools

Some samples of process maps, and timelines are available in the Presentation Tools from my Master's presentation.

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