Digital Health

The rapidly-growing field of digital health offers opportunities to reach communities that traditional health services struggle to serve. With mobile phones and centralized health information systems, health workers can reach remote, underserved, and marginalized patients in new ways. Health workers who used to spend days getting the know-how they need can now get it in minutes. Instead of traveling to a training, they can learn through messaging or voice response systems. Instead of running out of supplies, they can use mobile-based systems for logistics management.

K4Health supports knowledge management around digital health by managing the Global Digital Health Network community of practice and its annual Summit; offering digital health strategy and needs assessments at the local, national, and regional levels; curating the mHealth Knowledge and mHealth Evidence websites; and facilitating the development of the mHealth Planning Guide.

In Practice

Uganda mTrac

The Ntungamo District Biostatistician explains the mTrac system. Facility staff send data for key indicators by toll free SMS to the district office, where they review the data to manage drug stock distribution and for epidemiological surveillance. Credit: Cassandra Mickish Gross

 

Background

​​Despite significant improvements in reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, keeping women in care throughout the full recommended cascade of services remains a challenge. In addition, women living with HIV may not feel comfortable asking certain questions of their health provider or may not have access to a provider when they need information.

When integrated into national health and information systems, digital health tools can help health care workers to provide effective counseling and support patients throughout their care, as well as engage and inform clients and their families in their care. In South Africa, the national MomConnect initiative has registered more than 1.7 million pregnant women to receive health messages on their mobile phones throughout their pregnancy and the first year of their child’s life. In Uganda, the national FamilyConnect program sends timely and relevant messages to pregnant women, mothers, and other household members with reminders to return to the health facility for recommended services.

CHN On the Go

Logo of the CHN on the Go mobile application. Credit: Produced by Grameen Foundation/Ghana under the Concern Worldwide US, Inc. (CUS) Innovations for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health initiative, Care Community Hub (CCH) project

Background

Community health nurses (CHNs) are often the primary providers of maternal, newborn, and child health care (MNCH) in rural Ghanaian communities. Yet CHNs face significant challenges to address the health care needs of their communities, which are geographically diffuse and often under-resourced. While CHNs serve a crucial role, they are the least credentialed nurses within the Ghana Health Service, and have limited opportunities for career advancement. Their experience maps with global trends, which indicated that although there are more in-service training programs developed for health workers than ever before, a continuum of learning from pre-service to in-service training is needed.

Professional Development for Community Health Nurses in Ghana through Mobile Learning

K4Health collaborated with Ghana Health Service (GHS) and Grameen Foundation under the Concern Worldwide US, Inc. (CUS) Innovations for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health initiative, Care Community Hub (CCH) project to provide CHNs in five rural districts of Ghana access to professional development courses on a variety of family planning (FP) and maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH) topics via an Android app. Our goal was twofold: 1) to provide accessible, high-quality, relevant educational opportunities to an indispensable group of primary care providers and 2) to understand how the provision of learning materials could improve workplace satisfaction and equip CHNs with new technical knowledge.

Background

In Senegal, eHealth is at an exciting yet formative stage. A number of groups across a spectrum of global health and development agencies, corporations, non-governmental organizations, and social enterprises have deployed eHealth pilots and projects. These groups have carried out interventions with the aim of reducing maternal, infant, and child mortality and morbidity, fighting disease, improving health systems, and facilitating access to the availability of essential drugs and family planning products. Their efforts have realized efficiencies in health service delivery and improvements in health outcomes, yielding promising results upon which implementing agencies can continue to build by learning from each other’s experiences through improved coordination and communication efforts.

While Senegal has individually targeted specific areas such as training and data collection using a variety of approaches and technologies, there was a need for a more coordinated and strategic approach to align eHealth activities and work toward a shared vision.