M-learning: mobile phones’ appropriateness and potential for the training of laboratory technicians in limited-resource settings
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As previously demonstrated, m-phones can be easily used, without any adapter, to photograph and send images from a microscope. The objective of the current study was to test the appropriateness and educational potential of this mobile diagnosis approach with health workers in limited-resource settings, such as health units in Uganda, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. A total of 61 lab technicians were trained in basic lab skills and in using the m-phone to capture microscopic images and send them to distant Reference Centers for a second opinion. Structured pre-test interviews were used to define parameters such as health workers’ sex and age, duty station, schooling, experience in the laboratory, access to internet and availability to and use of m-phones. Images from the microscope were also uploaded on the available computers and shared on the screen to facilitate group discussions and comparisons with reference images. Standard instructions were then elaborated and tested with totally inexperienced people. Results showed that use of integrated camera m-phones was widespread. Mobile Messaging Service (MMS) was commonly accessible, however, not used. Neither m-microscopy, nor clinical use of m-phones was previously known among local health workers. A standard written procedure, without any additional verbal instruction, was enough to easily learn to take pictures of the microscope samples, even for the most inexperienced person. The possibility to share images on the m-phone and/or a computer screen, and the group discussions proved to be phenomenal educational tools.
Keywordsm-health m-learning Mobile phones Telemicroscopy Health workers training Mobile diagnosis
We wish to thank all the students, the health workers, the patients and the other people who made this study possible, including supporting our field work in Uganda, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. In particular, in Bangladesh professor Muhammad Yunus, for his invitation to collaborate, great availability, courtesy and personal support; the management and staff of Grameen Kalyan, the St.Vincent hospital and the Italian NGO Pontificio Istituto Missioni Estere (PIME). For the work in Uganda the Corti Foundation and the management and staff of the St.Mary Lacor Hospital in Gulu. Finally, in Afghanistan staff and management of both the General and the Pediatric Hospital in Herat, as well as the Italian NGO Associazione Italiana per la Solidarietà tra i Popoli (AISPO).
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