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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – Handheld Medical Computers - 2004-11-14

Broadcast: November 15, 2004

This is Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Development Report.

Computers are increasingly important in health care. But can they also help poor people escape poverty? Vikram Sheel Kumar thinks so. Mister Kumar is a doctor, an engineer and the head of a small business in Boston, Massachusetts. And, in September, this twenty-eight-year-old received an award for Technology in Service to Humanity. That award came from Technology Review magazine.

His goal is to improve health care in poor nations with the help of computers small enough to hold in one hand. These devices are known as personal digital assistants, or P.D.A.’s.

Doctor Kumar started his company two years ago. It is called Dimagi, which means “smart guy” in Hindi. His parents came from India. There, Dimagi computer programs are used to organize medical information on more than seventy thousand patients.

Doctor Kumar says health care workers had problems at first, but then learned quickly how to use the devices. Nurses no longer have to carry heavy documents whenever they travel to villages. And they no longer have to copy large amounts of health information by hand.

In South Africa, health workers are using a Dimagi program for a different purpose in the KwaZulu-Natal area. They use it to provide patients with results from tests for H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. People who get tested must enter a secret identification code to see the results.

And, in Boston, children with diabetes are using a Dimagi system to learn about their disease and how to control it. The software includes games and ways for the children to communicate with others with diabetes.

Doctor Vikram Kumar says it is important to get patients involved in their own health care by helping them gain information. He says there are endless possible uses for this technology, especially in developing countries. And he urges people to suggest ways to improve it. Dimagi programs are written in code that is open to anyone.

You can learn more about Dimagi at The name is spelled d-i-m-a-g-i.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Gary Garriott. This is Gwen Outen.