Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and Child Protection

Recently, Save the Children (SC) received a grant from Google to test some innovative ideas. One of the innovative projects that SC is testing is the use of personal digital assistants (PDAs) in child protection. PDAs are hand-held computer that is a mobile information manager.
The use of PDAs for child protection is being field tested in the country of Azerbaijan. Once part of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan-- like many other Soviet states-- institutionalized children for even minor mental or physical disabilities or even if the parents could not afford to support them. Since independence, international organizations have encourage the Azeri government to pass de-institutionalization reforms; that is, as much as possible returning children to their families, or foster homes, and supporting both the children and the families. One approach to meeting de-institutionalization of children in Azerbaijan is the community case management approach. Case management involves assessing, monitoring and evaluating each child and family. Community case management involves ensuring local referral and support services are available, accessible and used by the children and their families.
Currently, child case management involves the use of paper-based in-take assessment forms, child and family monitoring forms, and referral service follow-up. Collecting all this data requires time and money. In addition, the time to process all these data (data entry, data cleaning, data analysis, case reports produced) means that the children and families may not have immediate care or support they need.
With a current project in Azerbaijan, SC is conducting a comparative study of paper-based vs. PDA child case management. In this study, 10 of 60 child case management social workers have been randomly selected to participate in two groups. The first group will be 5 randomly selected social workers selected to use paper-based child case management forms and the second group will be 5 randomly selected social workers to use PDAs that have digital versions of the child case management forms.
After social workers in each group has completed case management forms for approximately 10 children and families, SC will examine the following:
  • The time and cost differences between paper-based vs. PDAs for each child and family, which will determine the cost effectiveness of PDAs. That is, do PDAs reduce costs and if so, how much;
  • Data quality, which will determine if the error rates are different. That is, does direct data entry and transmission to the central database reduce errors and if so which errors and by how much; and
  • User satisfaction, which will determine if social workers are most satisfied with paper-based on PDAs as a case management data tool.
The pilot testing of PDAs for child protection is occurring in Azerbaijan as I write (end of Aug 2010) but should be completed in late September. Once the results are in I'll share them on this blog.
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