Challenges in data availability and quality have contributed to the longest and deadliest Ebola epidemic in history that began in December 2013. Accurate surveillance data, in particular, has been difficult to access, as it is often collected in remote communities. This report describes the design, implementation, and challenges of implementing a smartphone-based contact tracing system that is linked to analytics and data visualization software as part of the Ebola response in Guinea.
The system, built on the mobile application CommCare and business intelligence software Tableau, allows for real-time identification of contacts who have not been visited and strong accountability of contact tracers through timestamps and collection of GPS points with their surveillance data. Deployment of this system began in November 2014 in Conakry, Guinea and was expanded to a total of five prefectures by April 2015.
To date, the mobile system has not replaced the paper-based system in the 5 prefectures where the program is active. However, as of April 30, 2015, 210 contact tracers in the 5 prefectures were actively using the mobile system to collectively monitor 9,162 contacts. With proper training, some investment in technical hardware, and adequate managerial oversight, there is opportunity to improve access to surveillance data from difficult-to-reach communities in order to inform epidemic control strategies while strengthening health systems to reduce risk of future disease outbreaks.