mHealth: Pearls and the "Dirty Dozen"
I’ve been to many mHealth gatherings and presentations lately, including the sessions during the International Conference on Family Planning in Dakar and the mHealth Working Group meetings in Washington. Several messages keep coming up. In Dakar, they were from a gathering of approximately 25 mHealth colleagues, mainly practitioners. The "pearls" or short lessons learned from past and present experiences included:
- Keep it simple
- Be mindful of weariness about pilots—or “pilotitis”—and pressure to go to scale
- In the rush to get something out that is new, don’t forget about the end user’s needs
- Engagement of ministries of health is crucial for success
- mHealth is not a magic bullet
- Context is key—there is no one-size-fits-all approach
- There has been lots of focus on content, but what about the platform?
At the mHealth Working Group meetings in Washington, current discussion has been on implementation—or the dearth of information in this area. Recently, representatives from a group of 10 organizations operating in mHealth agreed on the “dirty dozen” crosscutting issues in mHealth:
- Lack of coordination
- ICT infrastructure/equipment
- Privacy & security
- Evidence/monitoring & evaluation
- Public private partnerships
So what to do?
- Perhaps the mHealth Working Group should organize a Fail Faire in mHealth similar to the one held in the fall around development projects and technology in general.
- Join the mHealth Working Group and see the back meeting notes and presentations. Everyone is welcome to attend the monthly meetings to meet your fellow practitioners or participate on the listserv.
- Browse the mHealth toolkit.
- Download Abt Associates’s newly developed mBCC Field Guide (for mobile behavior change communications).
Keep sharing information. You never know what you might learn!
Laura Raney is co-chair of the mHealth Working Group that meets monthly in Washington, DC