Sharing experiences across projects, organizations, and countries is essential to supporting smart design of new mobile projects, and adaptation of existing platforms.
The Routine Health Information Network (RHINO) conducted an international forum on innovative applications of mobile technologies with routine health information systems (RHIS) on April 2-8, 2013. There were nearly 300 participants from 41 countries, the largest number of participants for a RHINO forum. Topics discussed during the 5 day forum included the innovative applications, appropriate uses, limitations, barriers and costs of mobile technologies with RHIS.
The RHINO forum, an activity hosted by MEASURE Evaluation with IT support from JSI, was moderated by MEASURE Evaluation’s Michael Edwards and Joy Kamunyori, technical advisor for the JSI mHealth Center. There were also numerous other contributors from JSI, including Mike Frost, Director of the mHealth Center, Tariq Azim, Resident Advisor for the MEASURE Evaluation HMIS Scale-up Project in Ethiopia, and, Vikas Dwivedi, Monitoring and Evaluation Advisor for the MCHIP Project.
Numerous innovative applications were presented, with the majority using SMS messaging that leveraged the user’s own basic cell phones. Several applications also mentioned using smartphone technology. The smartphone applications could collect more data, but usually required purchased phones provided to users.
Several JSI projects were highlighted during the Forum, including:
- USAID DELIVER PROJECT’s End-Use Verification exercise: a quarterly survey that collects malaria case management and stock availability information from health facilities in the President’s Malaria Initiative’s (PMI) focus countries, and has been administered using mobile phones running Magpi in seven countries (Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe)
- Three SMS-based mHealth initiatives being implemented in Tanzania (USAID DELIVER’s ILS Gateway), Malawi (Supply Chain for Community Case Management Project’s cStock platform), and Ghana (Focus Region Health Project and USAID DELIVER’s Early Warning System). All are variations of an SMS-based stock reporting system where users send in their stock information from their own phones at regular reporting intervals.
- MEASURE Evaluation’s Ethiopia Project was highlighted in a presentation entitled “Mobile Executive Dashboard for Senior Health Managers Using Mobile Technology: Making Decisions on the Road.”
Other topics for discussion during the forum included the difficulty of scaling up mHealth initiatives to the national level, the problem of multiple mHealth initiatives in a country without a consensus for standardization, the advantages and disadvantages of using mobile technologies, the need for tools for the evaluation of mHealth projects, and the importance of an assessment of the data collection needs be conducted before implementing a mobile technology to determine whether the technology is an appropriate solution.
These presentations, as well as the other documents submitted by participants and the complete forum transcript, are available on the RHINO website.