With support from SAMU, the first Southern African regional mHealth Workshop took place in Johannesburg from 24-26 February, 2014. mHealth officers, logistics and medical coordinators and experts in health informatics sat together to discuss the intricacies of capitalizing on mHealth opportunities in MSF-supported settings. mHealth, endorsed by the World Health Organization as an effective means to improve provision of health care services, is a relatively new approach in MSF; our first mHealth intervention began in 2012 (Can the Mxit Mobile platform help Youth living with HIV?). Representatives from MSF projects in South Africa, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe attended the workshop, as did some from Operations in Belgium.
One of the main purposes of this event was to enable mHealth Officers to share their ‘lessons learnt’ so far while implementing mHealth interventions across the region. The mHealth Officers played an active role in this workshop by preparing and facilitating sessions on their areas of expertise, including bulkSMS software, business models and partnerships with information and communications technology (ICT) companies, monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of mHealth in MSF projects, and the aggregate data collection tool ‘DHIS 2’. Special emphasis throughout the workshop discussion panels was placed on issues related to interoperability between mHealth solutions and other electronic health information systems and on the need to standardize processes and tools across all stages of the mHealth project cycle. Participants were encouraged to incorporate other functional mHealth areas (especially mLearning) in the future and to frame any mHealth activity within the context of an HIV/TB care cascade model, with the purpose being to help patients progress along the stages of this cascade and enhance linkage to and retention in care rates.
The activity was welcomed by all participants and hopefully will take place again next yea in 2015!
Author: Guillermo Martínez Pérez