Personal digital assistants to collect tuberculosis bacteriology data in Peru reduce delays, errors, and workload, and are acceptable to users: cluster randomized controlled trial.


A well-designed PDA-based system to collect data from institutions over a large, resource-poor area can significantly reduce delays, errors, and person-hours spent processing data.

We conducted a cluster randomized controlled trial in 93 health establishments in Peru. Baseline data were collected for 19 months. Districts (n=4) were then randomly assigned to intervention (PDA) or control (paper) groups, and further data were collected for 6 months. Comparisons were made between intervention and control districts and within-districts before and after the introduction of the intervention.

To evaluate the effectiveness of a personal digital assistant (PDA)-based system for collecting tuberculosis test results and to compare this new system to the previous paper-based system. The PDA- and paper-based systems were evaluated based on processing times, frequency of errors, and number of work-hours expended by data collectors.

The PDA-based system had a significant effect on processing times (p90 days was reduced from 9.2% to 0.1% and the number of errors was decreased by 57.1%. The intervention reduced the work-hours necessary to process results by 70% and was preferred by all users.

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