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Cambodia’s 115 Hotline: Successful COVID-19 Digital Response

By Guest Writer on May 6, 2020

In 2015, the Cambodia Ministry of Health rolled out its national 115 health hotline  with the objective to detect outbreak signals from the community via public reporting and via routine reporting from all health centers in the country.

The toll free hotline helps reduce the operational cost for the Cambodia Communicable Disease Control in collecting weekly routine disease reporting from the over 1300 health centers

In 2017, a call by a farmer in Svay Rieng province led to a confirmed case of H5N1. While his flock was destroyed to stop the spread of the disease, he was happy to be protected from H5N1, saying:

“If my animals are sick again, I will call the 115 hotline again, even if it means my livestock are removed. I must keep my family safe from infectious disease. Even if it means the loss of my chickens or pigs.”

This became an “aha!” moment, demonstrating that public participation in identifying an outbreak can and does indeed work!

115 Hotline for COVID-19 Digital Response

The 115 Hotline has been scaled up for COVID-19 Digital Response, going from 500-600 calls per day to 18,000 calls on peak days. Roughly 75% of callers access the health education menu and 25% are reporting suspect COVID-19 cases/symptoms.

Cambodia CDC is using the hotline as a primary first point of contact for all potential COVID-19 cases in the country – surveillance officers have staffed up to answer calls around the clock, screen callers, and direct them to appropriate rapid response teams/contract tracing teams for verification and testing.

As testing is still very limited, this approach is helping them reduce the overall burden on the health system – trying to give people the education and screening they need remotely.

Expanding the 115 Hotline has allowed the Cambodian government to efficiently and effectively implement a response to the outbreak in their country.  The ability to respond quickly, and reduce the burden of wasting critical time looking for or developing new solutions is just one of many.

5 Reasons for 115 Hotline Success:

  1. Reuse of existing technology known to effectively engage with users. The 115 Hotline was enhanced to support COVID-19 call volumes and reporting.
  2. Existing integration with government programs, thereby eliminating the need for additional training development and buy-in that would be needed with a new solution.
  3. Government ownership of the system. For several years, the Cambodian government owns and operates the 115 Hotline, allowing it to closely monitor response times and increase heath centers and agency adaptation to the pandemic.
  4. Government incentivized reporting. The toll free call and knowledge of government support to the users and citizens further provides reduced barrier to usage.
  5. Citizens trust in reporting system, Citizens know there will be no punishment for reporting potential disease threats. Leveraging a solution that the citizens have trusted for years enhances the ability for the solution to respond quickly to the urgent threat.

By Channé Suy Lan, Managing Director, InSTEDD iLab Southeast Asia and Wendy Schultz-Henry, President and CEO, InSTEDD.


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