Incentives & Drawbacks
How will your project benefit from a potential partnership?
Project success requires partnership, participation, and buy-in among all stakeholders—each player should feel heard and valued. Incentives for participation and benefits of the mHealth intervention should be clear to all of the different stakeholders. When considering which partners to approach, it is important to articulate the benefits and drawbacks of working with each. For example:
- Involving the Ministry of Health (MOH) from the beginning (and understanding the IT capacity of the MOH) can increase project sustainability by gaining the attention of decision makers, ensuring supportive policy is in place at the national level, and tapping into knowledge and experience from other projects being implemented elsewhere in the country.
- Private sector partners can be a great source of financing, expertise, and equipment, but requirements such as exclusivity contracts can pose a challenge to sustainability. Furthermore, it is crucial to ensure any private sector partnerships will extend beyond one-time funding of a pilot project.
How will your potential partners benefit from involvement in the project?
It is critical to understand the business incentives, social motives, and strengths and weaknesses of each partner to ensure a productive partnership. Be prepared to explain to each potential partner how they, as well as the end users, the greater health system, and the community, will benefit from the mHealth program. Examples include:
- A partnership between a nongovernmental organization (NGO) and a pharmaceutical company to develop an mHealth application that combats the sale and use of counterfeit drugs could yield a source of financing for the NGO to implement the project, clear health benefits for the user, and financial and results-related incentives to the pharmaceutical company.
- In Ghana, Switchboard developed a commercial application that created a network of doctors and nurses through a single mobile provider, Vodafone. These health care providers can make free in-network calls to facilitate referrals. This arrangement generates paying customers for Vodafone, as the company gets fees for out-of-network calls.
In Sustainable Financing for Mobile Health, the mHealth Alliance and Vital Wave Consulting published a table outlining common benefits for each typical stakeholder in an mHealth program: public sector, non-profit, private, health workers, and community members. Figure 4 depicts a shortened adaptation of that table to provide examples of the benefits that each potential partner might seek. There are certain benefits that each partner will value. For example, it is highly likely that most partners interested in mHealth would see improved health outcomes or cost savings as an incentive to participate.
Figure 4. Potential Benefits of mHealth Partnerships
(Source: Sustainable Financing for Mobile Health (mHealth): Options and opportunities for mHealth financial models in low and middle-income countries. mHealth Alliance and Vital Wave Consulting. 2013.)
To spread awareness of these benefits and encourage support and participation, project managers can assist with the recruitment of champions for the program: charismatic advocates of a belief, practice, program, policy, or technology. Champions are well-respected opinion leaders in their communities whose passion, credibility, and persuasiveness allow them to successfully promote innovations.
- For each potential partner you are considering, what would be the benefits of the partnership to your project? To the partner? To the end user? To the larger health system or community?
- What would be the drawbacks, if any, of this partnership to the stakeholders named in the previous question?
- Do all stakeholders truly understand and support the proposed project goals and objectives? If not, what are their concerns, and how can these concerns be addressed?
- Have the benefits and potential (scale, sustainability) of the mHealth solution to each group of stakeholders been identified and articulated to these stakeholders?
- What incentives are available to users and implementers of the mHealth solution for their participation?