How to Use This Guide
The mHealth Planning Guide lays out the three integral—and often concurrent—phases of planning your mHealth initiative. These phases comprise the first three sections of the Guide and are visualized in the figure below.
- Concept Development: This phase is focused on need. Planners define the problem that the mHealth solution will address; gain a thorough understanding of the context; and determine whether an mHealth solution would be relevant. This phase is relevant to you if you are just starting your ideation phase and are thinking about using mobile technology in your program.
- Solution Design & Testing: This phase focuses on the solution and encompasses key technology decisions, content development and testing, prototyping, and usability testing with end users and target beneficiaries. This phase is relevant to you if you have a proven concept for your mHealth initiative and are ready to work on technology design and content development.
- Planning for Implementation: The focus of this phase is process. Among many planning considerations for implementation are project management, partnership development, preparation for launch, monitoring and evaluation (M&E), scale-up, and sustainability. These process components are the nuts and bolts of your proposed implementation strategy and need to be considered alongside solution design and testing.
These three phases are not necessarily linear, chronological steps, but rather essential, interconnected components of any mHealth implementation plan. Note that you might not be able to work through the entire Guide in one sitting—this would take at least an entire work day—but we do recommend that you read through the full Guide at least once, if possible, before you start putting ideas to paper.
Interested to know how the Guide has been used by others? We have developed two brief use-case studies to share the stories of mHealth practitioners in Nepal and India who have read the Guide and applied the information and tools to their work.
Special Features of the mHealth Planning Guide
mHealth Planning Tools
As this Guide is intended to help you develop a solid plan for your mHealth activity, we provide four tools to support your planning process. We recommend downloading and printing these tools now so that you have them readily available as you work through the Guide. Click on the image below to download a zip file containing PowerPoint and PDF versions of all of the mHealth Planning Tools in our collection.
- The Planning Canvas (PDF, PPT) helps you visualize the essential components to your planning process, with all the topics covered in the Guide represented on one page. The worksheet illustrates how the project components are interconnected pieces of a complete strategy. While your plan will not realistically fit on one page, you can use this template to take notes as you work through the Guide or as a template for a strategy session with a whiteboard.
- The Key Considerations are designed to help you think through the critical questions that need to be asked as you design an mHealth solution and plan for implementation. You will notice that there are key considerations listed throughout the Guide. For ease of use, all of these considerations are consolidated into three PDF documents (one for each planning phase covered in the Guide: Concept Development, Solution Design & Testing, and Planning for Implementation), which you can download and use as checklists or worksheets to guide you through the mHealth planning and development process. The Key Considerations should be used to fill in the Planning Canvas.
- The Logic Model Template (PDF, PPT), introduced in the Concept Development section of the Guide, will help you articulate your program’s purpose and link activities to outputs, outcomes, and intended impacts.
- The Technology Decisions Worksheet (PDF, Word), explained in the Solution Design & Testing section of the Guide, will assist you in creating a document that captures your technology requirements. This document will ultimately guide the technology development process, whether you are building it in-house or with outside expertise.
The planning process is iterative in nature and relies on many rounds of incorporating user feedback, developing partnerships, tweaking content, and much more before scale and sustainability can be reached. You can use the Planning Canvas to document major changes and/or breakthroughs in your plan. You will notice that there is a box in the top right hand corner of the worksheet where you can indicate the date and which iteration of the Canvas you are working on.
To add another dimension to the guidance, we highlight tips from mHealth experts in blue font at the bottom of the pages throughout the Guide. To develop the Guide, we interviewed more than 20 mHealth professionals about their experiences, challenges, and successes with mHealth planning and implementation. We share particularly salient testimonies and lessons learned that might shed new light on your own planning process.
The Resources section of the Guide is a repository of key mHealth resources for program planners and implementers. Many of these resources come highly recommended by mHealth experts and contain lessons learned from the pioneers of mHealth. While some of the resources are hyperlinked on relevant pages throughout the Guide, the Resources section houses all of the publications and tools available through the Guide in one place for ease of reference and use. Note that this collection of resources does not duplicate useful repositories and databases that already exist elsewhere—but it does provide links to them. On the Publications page, you will find a handy Publications Matrix to help you select which publications cover the particular planning or implementation topics you are interested in reading about further.
Glossary & Acronyms
Technology-speak and health-speak can be very different, and there can be a steep learning curve to understand the language if you are new to the mobile technology space. To ease the transition, and to clarify any jargon used throughout the Guide, we have included a Glossary with about 50 terms. Glossary items are noted in orange font and hyperlinked throughout the Guide when the word is first used. Note that when you click on a Glossary term, you will be directed outside of your current page to the word's definition on the Glossary page. If you want the Glossary term to open in a different tab, you can right-click on the hyperlink and choose the option "open link in new tab."
An Acronym list captures the acronyms used throughout the Guide. Acronyms are not hyperlinked in the Guide, but each is defined when first used on a page.
A Note on Terminology
As you read the Guide, you will see the terms implementers, end users, and target beneficiaries used quite liberally. There are nuances between these terms, as an end user can also be an implementer—for example, if a health program’s staff uses an mHealth application to collect program data.
Similarly, a target beneficiary might also be an end user. For example, in an SMS program that shares tips for managing contraceptive side effects with family planning clients, the clients using the SMS service are those whose health outcomes will be improved by the mHealth solution. The diagram below defines the differences and overlaps among these players.