Planning for Implementation

At this point, you understand the health needs and technological literacy of your target audience and have become familiar with the context in which your program will operate. You have clearly defined the health problem you hope to address, and have pinpointed the intended outcomes of your mHealth program. This knowledge informed the design and content of your mHealth application, which is being tested and refined based on user feedback. While you are designing and testing the solution, you should also be planning for implementation of the mHealth program. Planning for implementation is the focus of this section of the Guide.

The topics explored in this section of the Guide will help you understand the mHealth implementation process. What elements need to be in place to ensure program success?

As illustrated in Figure 3 below, many factors play a part in the success, or failure, of an mHealth intervention and determine whether it can and should be scaled up. The elements in this schematic—project management, partnerships, launch, scale-up, sustainability, and monitoring and evaluation—are explored in depth in this section of the Guide.

Figure 3. mHealth Implementation Schematic (Source: FHI 360)

About this schematic

The above diagram of a typical mHealth project cycle is the result of in-depth interviews with 19 mHealth implementation experts and a review of current mHealth literature. The diagram represents the main components of mHealth program implementation: planning, designing, monitoring and evaluating, and scaling up. Program launch, revision, and adaptation are shown as distinct, critical points in the process, while sustainability is encompassed by and must be considered throughout the entire cycle. Stakeholder engagement, project management, and partnerships are essential ongoing components of the cycle.

The mHealth Planning Canvas (PDF, PPT), developed for this Guide, helps you visualize these essential components of your planning process, with all the topics covered in the Guide represented on one page. Like the above schematic, the worksheet illustrates how the project components are interconnected pieces of a complete strategy. The planning process is iterative in nature, and relies on many rounds of incorporating user feedback, developing partnerships, tweaking content, and much more before scale and sustainability can be reached.


“In my experience it takes at least 2-3 years for a program to go from concept to reasonable scale. Planning and testing takes a long time, and implementers and donors have to be realistic about when results will start to appear.

For example, MAMA South Africa took about 3 months to conduct a large stakeholder workshop (with the government, MNOs, NGOs, etc.), define the implementing consortium of partners with associated roles and responsibilities, conduct two literature reviews, define the target audience (including focus groups with users), and landscape likely technology solutions. We needed 1 month for proposal approval from our funders. We spent 4-5 months on technology development, content localization and review, acquiring short codes, etc. We launched the beta version of the service about 10 months from the start of planning, and spent 2 months in user testing. It took an additional 12 months to formally integrate with an MNO platform and to reach 100,000 users. Two years from planning to fully operational is actually quite fast." - Joanne Peter, Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action

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