The mHealth Planning Guide: Key Considerations for Integrating Mobile Technology into Health Programs

Why mHealth?

Over the past decade, mobile health, or mHealth, has emerged as a cutting-edge tool for expanding access to health information and services around the world. mHealth uses mobile and wireless technologies, such as mobile phones, patient monitoring devices, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and mobile software applications (apps), to achieve health objectives.

Why are a growing number of health programs—and even district and national health systems—turning to these technologies to support their efforts? There are many good reasons to consider using mHealth tools to improve public health. In fact, there are billions of reasons…as in billions of mobile phone users, including some of the poorest people in the world, living in the most difficult settings. Many of these mobile phone users are health workers and their clients who face a range of barriers to accessing health information and services. Sometimes characterized as “underserved” or “marginalized,” there is one way these populations have already been reached—by mobile telecommunications carriers.  

As mobile networks cover new swaths of the world and reach more people, the cost of mobile phones and airtime is declining. Meanwhile, continual innovation in technology infrastructure means mHealth can reach communities in ways that health services and other communication tools cannot.

As low- and middle-income countries work to meet the health needs of their populations, mHealth can facilitate and support key processes, ranging from patient monitoring to client-centered health information to supply chain management. mHealth also offers unprecedented opportunities for real-time data collection to a degree never before possible in public health.

Why use this Guide?

The mHealth Planning Guide helps individuals and organizations appropriately plan for mHealth deployments. This Guide:

  • Provides a thorough orientation to the mHealth planning process for anyone looking to learn more about integrating mobile technology into health programs in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Outlines key considerations and resources for planning an mHealth intervention, from concept development and technology design to preparation for implementation.
  • Helps you build a strong foundation for your mHealth activity, laying out the many facets of program planning that the mHealth pioneers wish they had known when they were starting out.

Working through the Guide and using the accompanying planning tools will help you build a solid plan for developing and implementing your mHealth solution

Who is this Guide for?

This Guide is intended primarily for global health technical experts, program managers, and staff working to implement mHealth solutions in low-resource settings. The Guide is also useful for donors—see the table below for suggested approaches for different users. While some parts of this Guide will be more useful to mHealth novices than to experts, much of the information and tools available in this Guide will prove valuable to even the most experienced mHealth program managers and staff.

For more information, check out two brief use-case studies we have developed to share the stories of mHealth practitioners in Nepal and India who have used the Guide in their work.

In every step the Guide worked as Bible for us. Great support for us. The mHealth Guide has a three step approach for designing mHealth programs. Anyone can work on mHealth Initiatives with the help of this document, which guides you in a step by step process to design the program. -Khemraj Sherestha, BCC Advisor, Health 4 Life (H4L) Nepal

Suggested approaches to using The mHealth Planning Guide





 

Are You…?

 

You can use this Guide to…

A health program implementer

  • Make a plan to add an mHealth component to a health activity.
  • Access guidance on planning for mHealth evaluation, scale-up, or another particular aspect of mHealth.

A health program manager

  • Access technical guidance and information on context as you generate and assess ideas for mHealth activities.
  • Learn about scale and sustainability from the mHealth perspective.
  • Understand how to best find common ground for national, government, and other in-country partnerships.

A donor

  • Evaluate a proposal with an mHealth component.
  • Develop guidelines for mHealth planning.

Contact

We would love to hear from you. If you have an mHealth experience or resource you would like to share, please visit our feedback form.

Toolkit last updated: August 26, 2014