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IBM Health Corps and Gorgas Memorial Institute

2017
Panama

Panama has seen the emergence of serious infectious diseases including Zika and Chikungunya, as well as the re-emergence of dengue fever in recent years, but lacked a real-time surveillance system for relaying information from field investigators to policy makers. Real-time surveillance is critical to taking swift action to curtail the spread of these diseases, which not only damage individuals and neighborhoods’ health but also have serious consequences for communities’ economies and health infrastructure. IBM Health Corps partnered with Gorgas Memorial Institute, one of the most prestigious medical research institutions in the world, to build the technical infrastructure to facilitate more rapid and effective decision-making about infectious disease control.

Over the course of the IBM team’s three weeks in Panama, they studied how public health field investigators conducted their on-the-ground surveillance and what information epidemiologists needed to make determinations on how to fight infectious disease. The team delivered to Gorgas a geo-referenced vector-borne disease surveillance system to address these comprehensive needs. The system is comprised of:

  1. A mobile application for collecting vector control field data (called “vectrl”). This application, delivered on a cloud-based Android platform, allows 300 vector control inspectors across Panama to capture geo-referenced data on mosquito breeding sites and larvae population in real time.
  2. An API that collects the field data from the Android application and delivers it to a mapping platform. This API enables information exchange between any field collection application and a mapping visualization platform, so it can be used with different applications in the future in any country.
  3. An Epidemiological Dashboard configured as a geospatial visualization of disease vectors (e.g. mosquitoes) and human cases. The dashboard allows epidemiologists and health policymakers to visualize and verify scenarios, collaborate with regional public health officials, and make decisions to control outbreaks.

Before the end of the three-week engagement, IBM Health Corps trained key stakeholders in the use of all the platforms. The team also provided four training sessions to epidemiologists on the use of the Spatial Temporal Epidemiological Modeler, an IBM-supported open source tool that is designed to help researchers and public health officials create and use spatial and temporal models of infectious diseases.

Gorgas has committed to fund a six-month rollout with the three townships that provided input into the surveillance system, and will proceed with a country-wide rollout by April 2018.

“Our partnership with IBM Health Corps will create a powerful information-sharing pipeline between field investigators and policy makers to control Zika and other infectious diseases. As new health threats emerge, we will be ready to act.”

Nestor Sosa, MD, FACP
Director General
Gorgas Memorial Institute for Health Studies

Team Members

B73A0483 (1)

Carl Bales

Senior Mobile and Cloud Developer

Global Business Services

United States

Senior Mobile and Cloud Developer

Global Business Services

United States

IBM Health Corps Team:

B73A0479

Fred Collins, PhD

Distinguished Engineer

Global Business Services

United States

Distinguished Engineer

Global Business Services

United States

IBM Health Corps Team:

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Kun (Maggie) Hu, PhD

Research Scientist: Public Health Research

IBM Research

United States

Research Scientist: Public Health Research

IBM Research

United States

IBM Health Corps Team:

B73A0481 (1)

John Boyer, MD

Tiger Team

Global Business Services

United States

Tiger Team

Global Business Services

United States

IBM Health Corps Team:

B73A0487 (1)

Jennifer Whyte

Interaction Designer

IBM Watson Health

United States

Interaction Designer

IBM Watson Health

United States

IBM Health Corps Team:

Project Champions

Nestor Sosa, MD, FACP

Director General

Gorgas Memorial Institute for Health Studies

María Eugenia Barnett de Antinori, MD, MPH

Global Health Security Project Coordinator

Gorgas Memorial Institute for Health Studies