Evaluation of a Smartphone-Based Training Strategy Among Health Care Workers Screening for Cervical Cancer in Northern Tanzania: The Kilimanjaro Method

Karen E. Yeates, Jessica Sleeth, Wilma Hopman, Ophira Ginsburg, Katharine Heus, Linda Andrews, Mary Rose Giattas, Safina Yuma, Godwin Macheku, Aziz Msuya and Olola Oneko
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Purpose Almost nine of 10 deaths resulting from cervical cancer occur in low-income countries. Visual inspection under acetic acid (VIA) is an evidence-based, cost-effective approach to cervical cancer screening (CCS), but challenges to effective implementation include health provider training costs, provider turnover, and skills retention. We hypothesized that a smartphone camera and use of cervical image transfer for real-time mentorship by experts located distantly across a closed user group through a commercially available smartphone application would be both feasible and effective in enhancing VIA skills among CCS providers in Tanzania.

Methods We trained five nonphysician providers in semirural Tanzania to perform VIA enhanced by smartphone cervicography with real-time trainee support from regional experts. Deidentified images were sent through a free smartphone application on the available mobile telephone networks. Our primary outcomes were feasibility of using a smartphone camera to perform smartphone-enhanced VIA and level of agreement in diagnosis between the trainee and expert reviewer over time.

Results Trainees screened 1,072 eligible women using our methodology. Within 1 month of training, the agreement rate between trainees and expert reviewers was 96.8%. Providers received a response from expert reviewers within 1 to 5 minutes 48.4% of the time, and more than 60% of the time, feedback was provided by regional expert reviewers in less than 10 minutes.

Conclusion Our method was found to be feasible and effective in increasing health care workers’ skills and accuracy. This method holds promise for improved quality of VIA-based CCS programs among health care providers in low-income countries.