Use of social media in a national Tuberculosis Drug Resistance Survey: lessons from the first anti-tuberculosis drug resistance survey in Ghana

Background: The widespread use of social media applications on mobile phones indicate that smart phones have become more than just a simple medium for voice calling. Several studies have shown the potential benefit of these social media applications in discussing many health conditions. We report on tracking sample transport by public and private transport providers using WhatsApp during the first nationwide drug resistance tuberculosis (TB) survey in Ghana. Methods: The survey was conducted between February 2016 and June 2017, and involved 33 TB diagnostic sites selected on the basis of a two-stage cluster randomized sampling design on both anticipated yield and probability proportional to size method. We engaged the services of privately and publicly owned vehicles’ union to transport samples to the central laboratories in Kumasi for further laboratory processing.We created a mobile social group platform (‘National TBDRS’) on WhatsApp consisting of two representatives from each site as well as other stakeholders. The purpose was to notify a laboratory team in Kumasi, on the following details of the sample: date and time of dispatch, driver’s name, car number, estimated time of arrival, and bus terminal name.  Results: A total 3077 WhatsApp messages were received during the survey period. Of these, 2879 (93.57%) messages were related to the survey. We observed a positive correlation between the total number of messages received and the total number of well-packaged sputum samples sent (r=0.89, p=0.02). There were no major transport delays (11:44±03:50) and all samples arrived within a 3-day window from the survey sites. Conclusions: Using WhatsApp as a platform of communication can significantly aid in improving tracking of samples, enhance accountability of for example drivers handling the samples over at a road crossing and communication across health facilities.
This is an article published in AAS Open Research 2019, 2:4;
AAS Open Research 2019, 2:4;