Document Type: Letter to Editor

Authors

Department of Community Medicine, Pondicherry Institute of Medical Sciences, Kalapet, Pondicherry 605014, India

Abstract

Dear Editor, Re-Orientation of Medical Education(ROME), a one month posting ofundergraduate students in department ofCommunity Medicine, is used not only to buildup the knowledge, attitude, communication andclinical skills, but also to make the physician incontact with the community efficiently. In 1977,the ROME scheme aimed at developing medicaldoctors for the rural community in the visionof medical education, which later envisagedtraining a basic doctor to serve better at the firstcontact with rural and urban community (1, 2).During the posting, the students conducted houseto house survey in rural and urban communitiesand prepared a detailed report of the researchactivities and planned intervention based on theneeds of the community.World consumption of paper has grown 400%in the last four decades. About 35% of the totaltrees cut around the world are used in paperindustries (3). To reduce the paper consumption,The Ugandan Ministry of Health advocated theuse of smart phones in integrated communitycase management approach for health careproviders for child health (4). Every year inROME more than thousands of pages of papersare used for data collection. As a small initiativeto save paper in this year (2018) ROME training,completely paper-less questionnaires were madeand used. Smart phones were used as a tool fordata collection and data entry. Even in the largescale surveys, data capture can be easily done(5). Epicollect5 software (developed by ImperialCollege London funded by the Wellcome trust)was used to collect data through a mobile app.The mobile based data collection has benefitsover paper-based approaches. The Epicollect5software enables the creators or managersto identify the errors and allows mid-coursecorrection in minimal time. The instances ofdata entry error/missing data can be avoidedby applying checks at the data entry point. Thedata are transferred to a central server near –instantaneously; therefore, the data are storedand backed up securely, and the risk of dataloss is minimal. Epicollect5 is available for bothAndroid (4.4+) and iOS (8+)-based mobile phonesin play store and app store, respectively. There arevarious resources for mobile phone-based datacollection solutions (6).As the students are familiar with the smart phones, training requirements were almostminimal. The students grasped it in almost realtime.It would be right to say the technology hasimbibed the younger generation more, than beinglearnt by them.Use of mobile phones was so convenient,feasible and user-friendly to capture data(data collection as well as data entry). By theend of day 5 of data collection by a group of40 undergraduate students, the total numbersof households covered were 963 and 3527individuals. During the survey period, a batchof 150 undergraduate students collected the dataof around 15575 individuals by using this mobileapp. This actually reduced the time and costsinvolved in acquiring or maintaining dedicatedtools for data capture. The app also gives anopportunity to collect audios, videos and GPSco-ordinates. As compared to previous years'ROME posting which were done in a similarsetting with paper-based questionnaire; the totalnumber of participants interviewed by a group of30-35 students were around 2200 to 2600 over aperiod of 10 days of data collection which wasfollowed by another 5 days of data entry in MSExcel/ EpiData software.Appropriate use of technology in researchhelped the students to minimize the hours spentin data collection and entry and provoked theirinterest in research since the app-based datacollection was more interesting as compared topaper-based approach for them.