Case study III: The Power of Information
In order to achieve benefits, it is worth remembering that it is information that enables change and better care and the technology is merely the delivery vehicle (although at best, it is a very effective delivery vehicle!)
A number of years ago, I found myself in a West African country in the middle of a meningitis epidemic. The epidemic started in the country next door. The disease spread rapidly in the absence of any adequate control mechanisms.
The epidemic was detected, when a visitor from the country I was in returned home to his family. Unfortunately, he brought the meningitis with him and started a new centre of infection. Although he was living in a relatively isolated town, there was a rudimentary disease surveillance system in place. A local health care worker noticed a sudden increase in the number of meningitis cases.
He rang the central disease surveillance team in the capital; a days travel away and started to count how many people got ill. They didn’t have any paper, so first they had to scrape around for some that was only written on one side. So they wrote on the back of envelopes, bills, anything they could find. Soon they were joined by the small team from the capital. They were able to demonstrate that they had a full blown epidemic on their hands.
Using their very limited information resources, they were able to:
· demonstrate to donor agencies their need, resulting in an influx of vaccines and drugs.
· design an immunisation strategy that stopped the spread of the disease, resulting in many fewer deaths than in the country of origin.
Gillies AC (2006) The Clinicians Guide for Surviving IT, Radcliffe Publishing, Abingdon