Zambia: Making the “SmartCare” Transition to Electronic Healthcare Records

A child at a HIV clinic in Zambia in 2010. The country is making strides in its efforts to modernize its health care and client tracking systems to make treatment more efficient and effective.


Leading the field in health care innovation, clinics in Lusaka, Zambia have embraced the “SmartCare Card,” a thin plastic card that is revolutionizing the way clinicians and health care workers manage a patient’s medical records. Reporter Zoe Fox wrote about the new program in a piece for Mashable this week.

In 2010, Zambia’s Ministry of Health – in conjunction with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – introduced the SmartCare card to Zambian health officials. The card – which is thin enough to fit inside a patient’s wallet – will replace the paper “exercise books”  that have been used to document medical records for decades. The details of individuals' diagnoses and treatments can now be stored on the card, as well as electronically at their health clinic and in the larger SmartCare network. The program is designed to be easy to use for clinicians who don’t have extensive computer experience.

Throughout the country, clinics that administer antiretroviral medications (ARVs) are adopting the online solution. The card will also help infectious disease specialists track outbreaks of diseases to specific communities and in turn, lead to more targeted prevention programs.

"If there's any outbreak, we'll catch it. The system will show if we see six cases of the measles within one day in people coming from the same area,"  community health care manager Ingicious Bulongo told Fox in an interview. 

He added that he is collaborating with health care officials to tailor the program data to more accurately depict the local health landscape. "We're working with a developer to make the system more unique to our area, because we know, for example, which seasons we have which diseases.”

While EGPAF no longer provides direct site support in Zambia, we work closely with health care officials to implement programs – like electronic health care systems -- that operate on a national and regional scale.

Chelsea Bailey is Communications Assistant for the Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.