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Oral Cancer Control Program: mHealth approach in rural India

Praveen Birur, MDS

Early detection by screening and diagnosis is important intervention in cancer control in low and middle-income countries. There is evidence that direct visual examination of the oral cavity is a cost effective method for oral cancer screening in resource-constrained settings. Oral cancer occurs in a region of the body that is generally accessible to simple oral examination. It has also been proved that front line health care providers can help in down staging of oral cancer and can also play a key role in motivating to quit deleterious habits.
However, conventional screening has few limitations. Poor patient compliance to follow up after screening is one of the main drawbacks. The other limitations include lack of permanent portable record of data after screening, slow rates of information transfer, poor communication between primary provider and specialist.
To address the shortcomings in conventional screening, Biocon Foundation a “not for profit” organization introduced a mobile health (mHealth) program in2011. We developed and implemented a mobile phone based management platform for cancer screening and surveillance that enables the creation of electronic health records and facilitates targeted screening for Oral Cancer. The project design is aimed at empowering the front line health care providers with mobile phone equipped with decision-based algorithm for early detection of oral cancer. This mHealth program provides a platform to connect specialists with rural population for diagnosis and it also creates an opportunity for follow up and referrals. The procedure is low cost and it replaces visual inspection by a specialist enabling community health worker to conduct the screening procedure. The GPS enabled data collection further helps to identify the disease prevalence in a particular geography, which in turn help in planning health policies. The Oral Cancer Detection and Prevention program has an annual target of 20,000 populations in both urban and rural areas. The program aims at reducing oral cancer burden and improve the treatment outcome and financial liabilities. It believes that use of technology for oral cancer screening would decrease the cost burden on the healthcare machinery in India.

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