Building for Community Health

It has been interesting going through the process of developing a technology product around the problem of community health, because our team has quickly realized that many challenges with health and healthcare access in rural Kolkata arise from social and ecological factors.

As we have gone through the semester asking questions and gathering information from iKure, we have tried to get a better sense of workflow issues that Community Health Workers face, and better understand the context shaping rural communities’ differential access to health care.

To give us some background, both the iKure founder and project manager–Sujay Santra and Anirban Bandhopadayay–have described situations illuminating some of the realities of rural healthcare delivery in Kolkata. At our first meeting with them on Friday, they mentioned a major issue was “real-time” data collection of patient health information, not only due to lack of internet connectivity for the electronic forms, but also due to obstacles in the physical environment. In Anirban’s words:

“At first, I was upset and not understanding why the CHWs were not entering all the patient data at the point of care. Then I realized that with the combination of heat, traveling through dense jungles for hours to reach these remote areas, and then having to do data transcription into the WHIMS system for 2 hours after patient visits, I would tell them [CHWs] ‘just do it tomorrow.'”

Sujay emphasized the same point, saying that it was critical to understand the environment of these communities and CHWs, not just to recognize why care is inaccessible, but also to see the challenges in implementing a technological solution for improved care delivery and health data collection.

A great aspect of finally being in-country is that we will be able to see these scenarios on the ground for ourselves, and will begin our needs assessments and user interviews at an iKure health camp. Our team plans to gather further information on rural health care delivery from this camp, and hopes to create a more complete picture of iKure’s current technology infrastructure and public health practice within rural Kolkata.