have not only placed huge computing power at our finger tips, but
are also providing faster, cheaper and more accurate surveillance
Researchers at the Kenyan Centres for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDCP), found the smartphone cheaper than traditional
paper surveys to gather information, after the initial set-up
In the study, data collected with smartphones had fewer errors and
was more quickly available for analyses than data collected on
paper, according to a CDCP statement.
Researchers compared survey data collection methods at four flu
surveillance sites in Kenya. At each site, surveillance officers
identified patients with respiratory illness and filled out a
brief questionnaire that included demographic and clinical
Some of the questionnaires were collected using traditional paper
methods, and others were collected using HTC Touch Pro2
smartphones using a proprietary software program called the Field
Adapted Survey Toolkit (FAST).
"Collecting data using smartphones has improved the quality of our
data and given us a faster turnaround time to work with it," said
Henry Njuguna, sentinel surveillance coordinator at CDCP Kenya.
"It also helped us save on the use of paper and other limited
A total of 1,019 paper-based questionnaires were compared to 1,019
smartphone questionnaires collected at the same four sites.
Only three percent of the surveys collected with smartphones were
incomplete, compared to five percent of the paper-based
Of the questions requiring mandatory responses in the smartphone
questionnaire, four percent were left unanswered in paper-based
questionnaires compared with none of the smartphone ones.
Seven paper-based questionnaires had duplicated patient
identification numbers, while no duplication was seen in
Smartphone data were uploaded into the database within eight hours
of collection, compared to an average of 24 days for paper-based
data to be uploaded.
The cost of collecting data by smartphones was lower in the long
run than paper-based methods. For two years, the cost of
establishing and running a paper-based data collection system was
approximately $61,830 compared to approximately $45,546 for a
smartphone data collection system.