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PLOS ONE  2012 

LabPush: A Pilot Study of Providing Remote Clinics with Laboratory Results via Short Message Service (SMS) in Swaziland, Africa

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044462

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Abstract:

Background Turnaround time (TAT) is an important indicator of laboratory performance. It is often difficult to achieve fast TAT for blood tests conducted at clinics in developing countries. This is because clinics where the patient is treated are often far away from the laboratory, and transporting blood samples and test results between the two locations creates significant delay. Recent efforts have sought to mitigate this problem by using Short Message Service (SMS) to reduce TAT. Studies reporting the impact of this technique have not been published in scientific literature however. In this paper we present a study of LabPush, a system developed to test whether SMS delivery of HIV related laboratory results to clinics could shorten TAT time significantly. Method LapPush was implemented in six clinics of the Kingdom of Swaziland. SMS results were sent out from the laboratory as a supplement to normal transport of paper results. Each clinic was equipped with a mobile phone to receive SMS results. The laboratory that processes the blood tests was equipped with a system for digital input of results, and transmission of results via SMS to the clinics. Results Laboratory results were received for 1041 different clinical cases. The total number of SMS records received (1032) was higher than that of paper records (965), indicating a higher loss rate for paper records. A statistical comparison of TAT for SMS and paper reports indicates a statistically significant improvement for SMS. Results were more positive for more rural clinics, and an urban clinic with high workload. Conclusion SMS can be used to reduce TAT for blood tests taken at clinics in developing countries. Benefits are likely to be greater at clinics that are further away from laboratories, due to the difficulties this imposes on transport of paper records.

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