Using mobile phones to improve community health workers performance in low-and-middle-income countries.
BACKGROUND: In low-and-middle-income countries community health workers are the core component of the PHC system as they act as a liaison between the communities and the healthcare facilities. Evidence suggests that the services offered by these workers have helped in the decline of maternal and child morbidity and mortality rates and the burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases. However, the coverage and the overall progress towards achieving the SDG targets is very sluggish. The recent consensus concerning this current pace of progress, is that it relates to financial and human resources constraints. CHWs are overburdened as they are expected to accomplish more although they may not obtain the required support to perform their duties. The health systems of LMICs, have given very little attention to the work environment of CHWs; which has negatively affected CHWs productivity, and quality of services. This debate is intended to explore the potential of mobile phone technology in LMICs for improving CHWs performance and effectiveness.
DISCUSSION: To improve CHWs productivity, some studies involved the use of mobile phones for data collection and reporting, while other studies used mobile technology for patient to provider communication, patient education, CHWs supervision, and monitoring and evaluation. A wide range of benefits exists for using mobile phones including reduction in CHWs workload, improvement in data collection, reporting and monitoring, provision of quality healthcare services, supportive supervision, better organization of CHWs tasks and improvement in community health outcomes. However, a number of studies suggests that CHWs encounter unique challenges when adopting and using mobile health solutions for health service delivery such as, lack of CHWs training on new mHealth solutions, weak technical support, issues of internet connectivity and other administrative challenges. Future research efforts should be directed to explore health system readiness for adopting sustainable mHealth solutions to improve CHWs workflows in LMICs.
CONCLUSION: Future research efforts and policy dialogue should be directed to explore health system readiness for adopting sustainable mHealth solutions to improve CHWs workflows in LMICs.