DIY Book Scanner Helps Out in Haiti, is Featured in the NYT

I’m pleased to say that the NYT made mention of my community and my recent article today.

I’m also pleased to announce that technology that I’ve developed with that community will be helping improve the lives of people in Haiti:

The DIY Book Scanner community, partnering with LeaveALittleRoom and Renewal4Haiti, has come together to help Camejo Hospital in Léogâne. This is the prototype scanner we built, before it was painted and sent off for further development:

From DonnaA, the project representative in the forums and founder of Leave A Little Room:

Camejo Hospital is in Léogâne, Haiti — epicenter of the Jan2010 earthquake and the site of Hurricane Tomas landfall. Dr Joe and Dr Cam are a married Haitian couple who have been medical doctors in this region for over 20 years. (I know their adult son, Jodel, a software engineer who lives in Colorado with his wife, Sue, who is a nurse.) They have about 80,000 handwritten records of their patients in this region, indexed by a patient ID number. While Dr Joe and Dr Cam are rebuilding the hospital that was destroyed in the earthquake (see for details), operating in a temporary clinic and their currently-flooded family clinic, they are also very interested in converting their patient records into a digital database. We are setting up an open source database for them and considering how to bring their handwritten records into that infrastructure. It’s an opportunity to leapfrog to current technology for their medical records, investing in the asset of historical public health information that they have created during their 20+ years of service.

The records are kept in “copy books”; when closed, these resemble large scrapbook/photo albums. They are approximately 10″ x 18″ with varying thickness. Blank copy books are made at a local bindery. The index that maps a patient ID number to the patient name is kept in a spiral-bound notebook. Entries are in pen — black or blue ink — in cursive handwriting, in French. In the patient exam copy books, there are typically five columns drawn on a blank copy book page; each column is used for one patient during the time that this copy book is active, accommodating multiple visits. Entries are made on both sides of each sheet of paper in the copy book. Entries in the lab copy books are structured somewhat differently than entries in the patient exam copy books. Lab information is transferred from the lab copy book to the patient exam copy book.

The hospital temporary clinic and the family clinic have electricity available sometimes. At the family clinic, electricity is available from a local utility an hour or two some days, and no electricity at all on other days. At the hospital temporary clinic, located at the site where the hospital stood pre-earthquake, there is no electricity infrastructure, but there is a generator that is run a couple of times each day to recharge an array of batteries. This location will eventually have a solar electricity system that is being designed to meet 100% of its electricity needs; installation will be incremental. Our book scanner must be useable in this environment of occasional electricity, without depriving the clinic of scarce electricity needed to provide patient care.

Thanks, DonnaA for your work and for getting us all started on this project. This isn’t the first time DIY Book Scanner technology has been used to scan the medical records of people in bad situations (it’s also been used in Africa) but it is the first time that we’ve been able to publicly work together to better the lives of people who are working to help themselves.

That is our skill — helping people develop technology to help themselves. We’re grateful for the opportunity.

Donate to Renewal4Haiti here.

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