Bringing mHealth back to earth

Part 1 of 2

“mHealth” is intimidating. I’ve written about this before – most of FrontlineSMS:Medic‘s partners cautiously approach us. After we work together to get projects up and running, I consistently hear, “We never thought this technology would be – much less work – here.”

With this post, I’m hoping to dispel some mHealth myths and start to dissolve the perception of mHealth programs as unattainable for small and large clinics (with or without technical know-how). Below, you’ll find pictures and prices for all the technology we’re using for the Partners in Health project in Malawi. Here’s the key: except for FrontlineSMS, all of the following tools were already being used locally.

Left: FrontlineSMS running on Acer with modem attached   Right: with Motorola V3 RAZR attached

Left: FrontlineSMS running on an Acer netbook with modem attached Right: with Motorola V3 RAZR attached

FrontlineSMS is free software, and incredibly easy to use. The Acer netbook cost $200, and the modem was $150. You can get the phone and data cable for $20 or less.

Motorola phones

Motorola phones

We needed mobile phones. This is how Hope Phones and the generosity of phone donors helped out, in a big way. We got these RAZRs for $15 each, and we’ve used models that cost as little as $6.50, which work just fine.

Solar panel

Solar panel

Solar panels are useful if electricity’s scarce, and we almost always implement sharing systems. We’ve found that 3-4 community health workers can share a panel, given efficient charging rates. The product pictured cost $20, and we’re testing $7 panels right now. Of course, we’re buying local SIM cards (cost less than $2 each). The last piece of the puzzle is cell network coverage. Luckily, we’re not building any towers; coverage is good and always improving.

That’s it. Really. As Home Depot used to say, “You can do it. We can help.”

Of course, people make this work and give the tools value. My next post (part 2 of 2) will focus on implementation and training (both FrontlineSMS training and SMS workshops with the community health workers) and I’ll include videos.

Henry leading SMS training

Henry leading SMS training

I’m happy to answer any questions – just leave a comment.

Posted: July 24th, 2009
Categories: Other posts
Comments: 55 Comments.
Trackback from What’s Woody Doing Now - July 24, 2009 at 9:54 pm

Reading: Bringing mHealth back to earth – Projects and perspectives on global health…

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