A Better Way to Track Children’s Health Records

March 11, 2014 by Jennifer Cobb

When a mobile vaccination team arrives in a rural village, how can they access an accurate record of previous vaccinations for each child?  This simple question points to one of the biggest challenges in global health -- maintaining accurate health records over time and across providers.  Particularly in under-resourced populations, where access to clinical care can be intermittent and hard to access, maintaining records often becomes the responsibility of individuals or families.  Records that are durable, easy to track and be quickly digitized offer an important contribution.

Carousel_190217_Box Boy-Girl

That’s why the Gates Foundation launched the Records for Life contest, inviting organizations from all over the world to submit designs to solve this problem.  Three diverse health innovators in New Jersey from medical technology consultancies Matchstick and Fulcrum joined forces with graphic artist Jen Vana to respond to this challenge.  The solution they crafted, called Carousel, reflects their experiences in graphic design, engineering, user-centered design, and developing world experience.

The Carousel design was chosen from over 300 entries as one of the Top 40 finalists in the contest.

As with most great design, Carousel is simple solution to a complex problem.  As the designers explain, “These records would face extreme weather and moisture, dust and dirt from long treks to and from the health clinic, hazards in storage, chance of loss, and the temptation to repurpose elements of the system for some other need.”

Carousel is a durable, easy to understand deck of preprinted, durable Tyvek cards that are shrink-wrapped, hole-punched, and bound by a circular tie.  Carousel’s attractive design and easy to understand iconography makes it easy for parents to permanently track their children’s immunization record.

Matchstick Box-059050_jvThe design team was exhaustive in thinking through the different design variables.  Optimal card size was developed, shipping density and packaging was considered and the best way to bind the cards together was determined.  What about families with multiple children?  Each deck is color-coded to the child.  It would be simple to keep all of the family’s health records together by using another zip tie to bind all of the decks on one ring.

The Gates Foundation asked contest participants to consider digitization as they worked on an improved analog design and made this a “bonus” part of the submission. Having worked with Captricity in the past, they elected to design the solution to work natively with our solution.  As they explained, “We knew that Captricity was originally invented to capture data in the field in the developing world.  The tool is simple and flexible, and would easily capture paper health information and convert it to digital form, without the need for creating expensive infrastructure.  It was the perfect choice for our design.”

The final design uses materials that are very low cost, simple, virtually indestructible, and survive in a variety of conditions from wet to dry, misty to dusty, and cold to hot.  The system addresses the weakness of paper while retaining its functionality, low cost, and versatility. The final design incorporates Captricity best practices for ensuring the highest level of accuracy for all the digitized records.  You can learn more about how the Carousel design incorporated Captricity and the team behind it.

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