A division of the U.S. Department of Defense is using a ruggedized tablet and specialized software combination to collect and retain health data in harsh conditions especially in places where Internet connectivity is not always available.
Keeping U.S. armed forces on their feet requires that military leaders monitor health trends in personnel to prevent diseases from spreading and sidelining the troops abroad. The DOD’s Infectious Disease Clinical Research Program (IDCRP) is one division that is helping keep tabs on the health of service people.
This network of clinics and research centers is conducting ongoing trials at military bases located in Afghanistan, Kenya and Djibouti. Researchers are experimenting with a single-dose antibiotic treatment that may better treat acute infectious diarrhea than by using multiple doses.
The study consists of five scheduled clinical visits over a one-month period and personal interviews as well as multiple follow-up surveys conducted via e-mail. Originally, data gathering and surveys were done by hand on multiple printed forms and then transported from the field medical centers to a central office. There the forms were scanned and emailed to the IDCRP’s main office in Bethesda, Maryland, and finally re-keyed by hand into a computer database.
Nearly 20,000 forms were required in order to record the responses from all stages of the study, making it a slow and inefficient process. While PCs and laptops provided one way to gather and send data, it was necessary that the IDCRP collect and transmit the results in some adverse conditions such as when Internet connectivity was available.
“We couldn’t highlight blank fields or ask [the regional clinics] to confirm suspect data on traditional paper forms, but we can in a computerized system like the one we have built around the tablet PCs.” said Joshua Kumpf, a Data Configuration Specialist with IDCRP.
Ruggedized and connected
The IDCRP ultimately decided on TabletKiosk’s Sahara Slate PC i500 tablets. The 12.1-inch tablet includes an Intel Core i7 processor and runs various desktop Windows operating systems. The Sahara features both a touchscreen and a pen panel for handwriting input and recognition. In addition to Wi-Fi, the tablet also features a wired Gigabit Ethernet port. The Sahara Slate also includes Mi-Co’s Mi-Forms software for data collection and transmission.
“Our clinicians love Mi-Forms. We taught them to change the orientation of the tablet so they could fill the screen with the full height of the CRFs and now it’s basically a perfect EDC system for research docs who are used to filling out paper forms on a clipboard,” says Kumpf. “We don’t have to spend hours training and retraining because of that simple intuitive feature.”
With the Sahara Slate, the IDCRP said it cut in half the time it took to develop new report forms by using Mi-Forms as compared to their previous data collection system. In addition, 80% of IDCRP’s clinical research coordinators reported that the tablet-led program is more efficient and saved valuable time over the traditional paper forms.