Overview of Topics for Planning for Implementation
The Planning for Implementation section of the Guide covers the major elements of implementation. Each topic below links to more detailed information as well as a checklist of key questions to ask yourself as you prepare to launch and implement your mHealth intervention.
- Project management. Solid concept and design are absolutely necessary—but to succeed, they must be supported by strong project management and relationship-building. Attentive and flexible management helps smooth operation of systems and procedures and allows for wise troubleshooting when the inevitable challenges and problems arise. A good management team also relies on effective and efficient management of data and user feedback throughout implementation to see if intermediate outcomes are being met and whether the intervention is likely to meet its goals.
- Partnership development. Actively maintaining a network of stakeholder and partner relationships—some of which were initiated during the Concept Development and Solution Design phases—is essential for a thriving project. Buy-in and inclusion of multiple perspectives continues to be important throughout project implementation. The right partners contribute to financial, programmatic, and technological sustainability. These partners might include donors, government ministries, private sector organizations, or non-profits. They also include informal yet valuable networks such as mHealth communities of practice and technical working groups. The key to approaching any potential partner is to be able to show them how their involvement will benefit them as well as your project and to identify the appropriate time to bring them into the project. As relationships develop, assess partnership opportunities with a critical eye and a view across the life of the project. For example, a donation of phones in the name of corporate social responsibility might burden project participants with the wrong kind of equipment.
- Preparing for launch. While you have already prototyped and beta tested the solution, the first few weeks to months of public launch should still be treated as a learning phase. A small-scale initial roll-out allows you to test run other activities that might be needed to support a full-scale launch, such as training, support, troubleshooting, demand creation, and social marketing. While every implementation process encounters some initial bumps in the road, planning for a learning phase will help the project team smooth out major implementation challenges before engaging a higher volume of users.
- Data collection and monitoring and evaluation (M&E). Monitoring and evaluation is the process of tracking progress toward project goals and objectives, considering effectiveness and efficiency, and identifying whether and what improvements and adaptations are called for. It can foster continual learning and improvement of the implementation process; demonstrate the effect of mHealth on health outcomes and service delivery; shed light on the real costs, and cost-effectiveness of the mHealth solution, and contribute to the global evidence base on mHealth.
- Scale-up. The field of mHealth is often criticized for the number of small pilot projects that never get scaled up. Whether an mHealth solution should be brought to scale depends on the original intent of the program as well as the evidence gathered during the pilot phase. If the program is shown to be cost-effective and to have a positive impact on health outcomes, the health system, and the community, it is likely worth scaling up. But many elements need to be securely in place to successfully grow a program: sustainable financing, capacity to maintain and upgrade technological systems, strong partnerships to navigate the telecom ecosystem, and more.
- Sustainability. Will your mHealth project last beyond the pilot phase? Are there plans to not be dependent on donor funds? Measures of sustainability should be built into an mHealth program from the beginning of the planning process so that if the pilot succeeds, the program can not only continue, but also expand to new audiences. These measures include exploring long-term financing possibilities, including incorporation of funding for your mHealth program into the government budget, and potentially conducting business analysis.
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