Training & Supportive Supervision

Many mHealth projects will need to plan and conduct a series of trainings prior to launch to prepare those who will be implementing, supporting, and using the mHealth solution. Training ensures that everyone understands:

  • The rationale behind implementation of the mHealth solution.
  • Policy or procedural changes that will take place to accommodate the program. For example, if an mHealth application will be used to record patient information in place of paper forms, procedural guidelines and orientation for new staff, should be updated.
  • Instruction on how to use the mobile device and application (if applicable).
  • How to report and operate around implementation challenges.
  • Data management and use.
  • The opportunity for those who will be affected by the changes to ask questions and express concerns about the process.
  • Why a parallel system (for example, still using the old systems while trying out the new one) might be called for at first, and how that might temporarily increase workloads.

While not every mHealth program requires extensive training or ongoing supervision, in many cases, training is essential to a successful launch. After launch, ongoing training and supportive supervision might also be critical to ensure that implementers and end users are using the application correctly over time and as staff turnover occurs. If supervisors are available to answer questions, identify and address incorrect use, recommend refresher training when necessary, and help users troubleshoot problems, success of the mHealth intervention is much more likely.

Keep in mind that in many low- and middle-income country settings, the health workforce is already overburdened. Although the mHealth intervention might promise to reduce workload, the training process and the learning curve that follows take valuable time. Health workers must feel there is enough of an incentive to participate despite these demands—these types of issues are why their perspectives and realities must be examined from the very beginning, and often revisited.

KEY CONSIDERATIONS

  • Describe the training program that will be implemented before launch.
  • What opportunities for refresher training will be available if it is needed?
  • Describe the supportive supervision that will be available to the implementation team.

THE EXPERTS SAY...

“The health workforce is already overstretched—even though new devices promise to reduce their workload, the training and learning curve can take valuable time.” – Berhane Gebru, FHI 360; Uganda Health Information Network; Mozambique Health Information Network; Mobile Health Information System in South Africa

“In the K4Health Malawi project, we gave phones to more than 600 community health workers (CHWs).  For many, this marked the first time they’ve owned a phone, so we planned a one-day training to help familiarize the CHWs with their new phones.  We originally thought a one-day workshop would be sufficient.  But, quickly found that wasn’t enough training and support, given some CHWs were struggling with SMS usage basics.  We ended up conducting a series of trainings, outreach, and refreshers. For example, we would call the CHWs periodically to check in and ask how things were going.  The phones would only be helpful if the CHWs understood how best to use them, which required ongoing support to ensure the program’s success.”  – Natalie Campbell, Management Sciences for Health (MSH), The Knowledge for Health (K4Health) Malawi Pilot Project