A healthcare system for developing countries designed at Georgia Tech recently won the Gold Prize in the 2015 Open Source Software World Challenge.
Hosted annually by the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of ICT and Future Planning, the Open Source Software World Challenge promotes software development and the expansion of international exchanges amongst developers. Georgia Tech’s Computing for Good Basic Laboratory Information System (C4G BLIS) received the Gold Prize and $5,000 in prize money.
C4G BLIS is open-source software used to track patient specimens and laboratory results. It replaces paper records, resulting in a sustainable, more efficient and more accountable process that also tracks workflow and generates customizable reports. More than 60 healthcare facilities or hospitals use it in Africa today.
Distinguished Professor Santosh Vempala (CS) developed C4G BLIS in collaboration with the International Laboratory Branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to address persistent health care challenges in sub-Saharan Africa, partly as a research project in the College of Computing’s C4G course in 2010 and 2012. C4G BLIS launched in 2010 in Cameroon and has since expanded into Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya.
“User satisfaction is high, error rates are down, workloads are lower (hence more patients can be served) and hospital revenues are up,” Vempala said.
C4G BLIS has undergone more than 70 revisions since its launch with students handling the updates, Vempala said. Alumnus Aishwarya Rajagopal, MS CS ’15, is still working on C4G BLIS and says it has been an extraordinary experience.
“The system is continuously evolving and there have been many challenging tasks in the last one year,” Rajagopal said. “Coming through these and having a release rolled out is a great feeling. The idea that something I do touches the lives of people in another continent thoroughly excites me.”
C4G BLIS continues to evolve based on user feedback, and other developers are joining in, from Kenya and Ghana most recently, as it is open-source software.
“To be sustainable in the long term, the development of a system like C4G BLIS has to be collaborative, involving all its stakeholder and local IT expertise,” Vempala said. “Open source is the only way to go.”
Challenges remain, but with expanding deployment throughout Africa and international recognition for C4G BLIS, the future is bright.
“Sustainable progress is hard to be certain of,” Vempala said. “But with a collaborative and ultra-configurable design, and a talent pool of inspired students, we appear to be meeting the diverse needs of hospital laboratories in Africa; so far, so good.”