BACKGROUND: The reliability of counts for estimating population dynamics and disease burdens in communities depends on the availability of a common unique identifier for matching general population data with health facility data. Biometric data has been explored as a feasible common identifier between the health data and sociocultural data of resident members in rural communities within the Kintampo Health and Demographic Surveillance System located in the central part of Ghana.
OBJECTIVE: Our goal was to assess the feasibility of using fingerprint identification to link community data and hospital data in a rural African setting.
DESIGN: A combination of biometrics and other personal identification techniques were used to identify individual's resident within a surveillance population seeking care in two district hospitals. Visits from resident individuals were successfully recorded and categorized by the success of the techniques applied during identification. The successes of visits that involved identification by fingerprint were further examined by age.
RESULTS: A total of 27,662 hospital visits were linked to resident individuals. Over 85% of those visits were successfully identified using at least one identification method. Over 65% were successfully identified and linked using their fingerprints. Supervisory support from the hospital administration was critical in integrating this identification system into its routine activities. No concerns were expressed by community members about the fingerprint registration and identification processes.
CONCLUSIONS: Fingerprint identification should be combined with other methods to be feasible in identifying community members in African rural settings. This can be enhanced in communities with some basic Demographic Surveillance System or census information.