Mobile health (m-health) tools are a promising strategy to facilitate the work of community health workers (CHWs) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Despite their potential value, little is known about CHWs’ experiences working with m-health tools in their outreach activities with community members.
To understand the benefits of and barriers to using m-health tools for CHWs, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 57 CHWs employed in six primary care centers in São Paulo, Brazil. All CHWs had experience using a cell phone application called Geohealth for collecting health and demographic data of community members. We assessed their experiences using Geohealth and recommendations for improvements.
CHWs described key benefits of using Geohealth as helping them save time with bureaucratic paperwork, organizing the data that they needed to collect, and by replacing sheaves of paper, reducing the weight that they carried in the field. However, there were many technical and social barriers to the successful adoption of the m-health tool. Key among these were poor quality hardware, faulty software programs, and negative community member perceptions of the m-health program. The CHWs provided valuable input as to how Geohealth could be improved to fit their needs.
m-health tools have the potential to facilitate the work of CHWs in LMICs. However, such tools must be designed and implemented thoughtfully. Technical barriers related to both hardware and software must be anticipated and addressed to maximize their efficiency and successful adoption. CHW input on the design of the tool should be sought to maximize its utility and minimize barriers to use.