ClaimMobile: Managing Mobile Health Payments

Posted by CorinneRamey on May 29, 2009

In Uganda, medical clinics keep track of patient and medical payment records on paper.  They then carry these often error-ridden forms to a management agency, where the information is manually entered into a database to receive reimbursements for the care provide.  The process is tedious, time-consuming and leads to errors that can be costly for the local clinics.  Melissa Ho, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California Berkeley School of Information in the United States, believes that a mobile phone can make the process more efficient and accurate, saving money and resources for local clinics.

Ho’s new program, still in the pilot stage, is called ClaimMobile. It was inspired by another Berkley Ph.D. student, Ben Bellows, who was researching the HealthyLife voucher program, which provides for low-cost treatment and testing of sexually transmitted infections.  For about U.S. $1.50, patients can buy a set of treatment vouchers, which covers the cost of consultations and three follow-up visits. The vouchers can be used by patients at local clinics, which then submit claim forms to a management agency.

Bellows concluded that one of the biggest problems with the voucher program was transferring information between clinics and management agencies. “It would be helpful if they had a way for health clinics not to have to physically carry all these papers to the management agency every few weeks, and not have to manually enter all the stuff into the database,” Ho said.

She notes:

The hospital submits the claim form with the voucher to the funding agency, who then pays the hospital for the cost of the visit – labs, any prescriptions given, the consultation fee, etc. Filling out the forms can be tedious and error prone – a particular clinic had almost 18% of their STI claims rejected for errors last October. In the same month, another clinics had 38.6% of their claims rejected. I am trying to work on digital systems that can help improve communications between the clinics and the funding agency, and also decrease the cost and burden of claims administration.

ClaimMobile has two main components: A web application used by management agencies, and a mobile phone used in the clinics. The mobile phone form is dynamic with each question changing depending on the answer to the previous question.  The form will also tell the user if one answer is inconsistent with another answer on the form.  Clinics submit the forms from the phone to the web application, and then get feedback on their phones.  The ClaimMobile application works on Palm smartphones.

The project is still in its early stages.  Ho trialed a pre-pilot version in two clinics through fall 2008, and a larger pilot, in 10-12 clinics, will take place this summer.  Ho said that about 100 claims have passed through the ClaimMobile system and she estimated that each clinic using the system would save about $100 a month because they would make fewer errors.  The funding for the project has come from the Blum Center for Developing Economies at UC Berkley.

In addition to working on the project, Ho has taught Java programming to 220 undergraduates at a local Ugandan university.  Some of these students will be her interns and help with the summer pilot.

The most challenging part of the project has been writing the software in Uganda, Ho said. “I'm sitting behind a really terrible Internet connection and trying to do all the research to do the software development,” she said. “But if I had chosen to do the software development in the U.S, I wouldn’t be able to engage with my users and find out what their real needs are.”

Photo credit: Blum Center

Managing Mobile Health Payment

Good morning,

We are based in Nigeria and am trying to look for a solution similar to the healthly Life Voucher Program that can be used to sort out a similar problem that is affecting various Private Health Clinic in the South Western Part of Nigeria. Due to the inconsistency of the Paying Agents some of the Clinics which were hitherto involved in this program with the Government had to abandon the System. Can we take part in the pilot if it is still ongoing? Thank  you.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><p><br> <b><i><blockquote>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options