In rural settings within developing countries where digital devices are not pervasive, all written records are maintained on paper forms which take a long time to aggregate and process data, resulting in corresponding delays in remedial action. We study this problem in the context of malnutrition treatment of rural children in Madhya Pradesh through ethnographic interviews and contextual inquiries, and present a health data record management application on a low-cost digital slate prototype (UX’12) built through iterative prototyping. The solution directly accepts handwritten input on ordinary paper notebooks placed on the digitizing pad of the slate, and provides immediate electronic feedback on the display of this device. This simultaneously generates a paper and digital record of the data. The digital slate’s micro SD card can be transferred to a mobile phone and the data sent to the backend database via GPRS. The server is updated at the end of each day, and the summary of the data is made available to the decision makers.
We also conduct a case study of dimagi‘s CommCare (NordiCHI’12), a health data collection and record management system deployed on low-cost mobile phones. Through a three-month unsupervised field trial in rural Madhya Pradesh with ten health workers we report data management gains in terms of data quality, completeness and timeliness for 836 recorded patient cases, and demonstrate strong preference for the system by rural health workers.