Optical Mark Recognition Technology for Rural Health Data Collection

By Sabyasachi Das, Research Associate – ICTPH

Non-communicable and chronic diseases are the leading causes of death in this part of rural India. The observed pattern of death is unlikely to be unique to these villages and provides a new insight into the rapid progression of epidemiological transition in rural India 1. Health statistics are necessary inputs in planning appropriate health interventions 2. A confirmative diagnosis for an entire population is not always possible in a resource-constrained setting and therefore screening based on basic symptoms like Blood Pressure, Body Mass Index (BMI), Visual Acuity, Nicotine and Alcohol Consumption etc. 3 can help the health provider to screen risk-prone individuals in the community and to devise strategies for personalised healthcare.

Various technologies were evaluated considering cost, turnaround time, error rates and ease of implementation in the field. Learning from different data collection methods conducted by different Governmental agencies 4 and Microfinance companies like Equitas 5 to collect customer enrolment data, Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) technology emerged as a promising solution over a manual handwritten text entry.

Though, different emerging mobile applications could be designed to collect data in more efficient way, there is no standard mobile application available that is ready for field implementation. ICTPH is working towards designing appropriate mobile applications with various technology partners which will be live very soon.

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1 Chronic diseases now a leading cause of death in rural India — mortality data from the Andhra Pradesh Rural Health Initiative. Rohina Joshi1, Magnolia Cardona1. 1522–1529, Sydney NSW 2050 : International Journal of Epidemiology, July 5, 2006, Vol. 35.
2 Prevention and management of chronic disease: a litmus test for health-systems strengthening in low-income and middle-income countries. Dr Badara Samb MD, Nina Desai MD. Issue 9754, s.l. : The Lancet, 20 November 2010, Vol. Volume 376.
3 Body-mass index and cancer mortality in the Asia-Pacific Cohort Studies Collaboration: pooled analyses of 424 519 participants. Dr.Christine L Parr PhD, G David Batty PhD. August 2010, The Lancet Oncology, pp. Volume11, Issue 8, Pages 741-752.
4 Expert Group Meeting on Effective Use of IT in Population Census, UNESCAP. Bangkok : UNESCAP, 10-12 Dec 2007.
5 OMR facility at Equitas. [Online] [Cited: November 15, 2010.] http://www.equitas.in/Launche_OMR.html.

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