Some may be aware that the revised WHO vaccination coverage cluster survey manual encourages consideration of imaging (whether through photographing or handheld scanner) home-based records as part of vaccination coverage survey field work. Within the TechNet resource library there is a standard operating procedure(SOP) that has naturally evolved out of practical needs for survey staff guidance in one national vaccination coverage survey.
While the existing SOP provides a starting point, in many ways it falls short. I would like to propose consideration of developing a practical field guide or protocol based on professional expertise in the field of digital imaging and archiving of documents to help guide field-based imaging of home-based records. Such a guide would establish the ideal situation with a recognition of the minimal training that would be available to field staff and the need to photograph under suboptimal conditions (i.e., no tripod, damaged documents, etc). The guide or protocol would establish clear parameters based on best practice while remaining practical to help guide field staff training and evaluation during field work.
For example, the current SOP raises awareness of avoiding glare from the sun or artificial light, but it does not provide much more guidance on what to do and may lead someone to photograph indoors where lighting may be suboptimal. In fact, if possible, photographs should be taken in daylight which often may require the document to be taken outside. Similarly, it is often important to avoid placing the document on reflective surfaces which can produce a wash out of the detail (overexposure) and the handwritten information may become less visible on the photograph.
The guide would perhaps discuss issues of equipment selection and identify the top five or ten most important considerations for field staff when taking a photograph of a HBR (e.g., lighting, where to focus in order to get a clear image, angle of camera to document, distance of digital camera/smartphone/tablet to document, shooting against a white rather than dark background, turning flash off when photographing a document printed on glossy paper, etc). The guide may also provide trouble shooting advice for those who have to take photographs in poor conditions (e.g., when using the flash in poor lighting conditions, be sure to take photos from a distance of approximately 50 cm).
There is a recognition that SOPs for imaging home-based records during vaccination coverage surveys should not become overly technical. The SOP must remain practical for the settings in which it will be used. But, there is some feeling that the SOP should provide more explicit advice and detail than the existing SOP based on professional best practicesin the field of digital imaging and archiving of documents.
Beyond this, I certainly hope that there is an active sharing of lessons learned, both good and bad, around imaging home-based records during vaccination coverage surveys here on TechNet.