Accurately and reliably identifying patients is an essential step in providing healthcare in both developed and developing countries. In developed countries, patient identification is largely driven by extensive electronic storage and tracking systems of electronic medical records (EMRs). However in many developing countries patient identification by health workers is a major challenge. Often patient records often do not exist, and when they do exist, they are usually paper-based and are thus highly susceptible to loss or damage.
SimPrints began as the winning response to a hack-day challenge by one of the world’s leading mobile healthcare NGOs, MedicMobile. Their field experience had shown that typical identifiers used in developed world contexts such as names or DOB are inadequate in developing countries where multiple people share the same name in a village or do not know their date of birth. In addition, connecting patient IDs, particularly across multiple points of care (i.e. community health worker, clinic, & hospital) has proven to be a serious challenge. These problems are exacerbated when healthcare efforts are episodic (vaccine drives by government workers), caregiver turnover is high, or in cases of disease outbreaks and natural disasters. SimPrints hopes to address this challenge and make major strides in improving patient care in these settings.
Based on these inefficiencies and the growing penetration of mobile phone usage amongst our target segments, we believe that mobile-based biometrics may bridge the gaps in patient identification in resource poor settings. Phones have penetrated numerous developing and emerging markets. Africa for instance now has more mobile phone subscribers (648mil) than either the U.S. or Europe. The ubiquity of phones has sparked a rise of mobile healthcare or ‘mhealth’ tools for both caregivers and patients.
SimPrints takes fingerprint biometrics a step further by freeing biometric identification systems from laptops or computers and making them mobile based with a rugged hand-held scanner with accompanying software for mobile phones. By using the phone as a computer, fingerprint scans may be translated into unique identification numbers that may be sent via text messaging to servers where health records are kept. Fingerprint scans are unique to individuals and especially with a few additional tags (gender/location) can rapidly identify or verify an individual’s identity. For example, with this technology a community health worker can swipe a child’s fingerprint, have the worker’s phone text message the fingerprint scan to the primary operating server along with some health details, and receive a text message back indicating that the child has received polio drops yet is due for a second round of diphtheria vaccinations.