PLoS One 2018 7;13(6):e0198725. Epub 2018 Jun 7.
The Centre for Health Services and Policy Research, School of Population and Public Health, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
Introduction: Mobile Health (mHealth) programs have increasingly been used to tackle maternal and child health problems in low and middle income countries. However, few studies have evaluated how these programs have been perceived by intended users and beneficiaries. Therefore, we explored perceptions of healthcare officials and beneficiaries regarding RapidSMS Rwanda, an mHealth system used by Community Health Workers (CHWs) that was scaled up nationwide in 2013.
Methods: We conducted key informant interviews and focus group discussions with key stakeholders, providers, and beneficiaries of maternal and child health services at both the national and community levels. Semi-structured interviews were used to assess perceptions about the impact of and challenges facing the RapidSMS system. Interviews and focus group discussions were recorded (with the exception of one), transcribed verbatim, and analyzed.
Results: We conducted a total of 28 in-depth interviews and 10 focus group discussions (93 total participants). A majority of respondents believed that RapidSMS contributed to reducing maternal and child mortality rates. RapidSMS was generally accepted by both CHWs and parents. Participants identified insufficient training, a lack of equipment, and low CHW motivation as the main challenges facing RapidSMS.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that an mHealth program can be well accepted by both policymakers, health providers, and the community. We also found significant technical challenges that have likely reduced its impact. Addressing these challenges will serve to strengthen future mHealth programs.