Focus on the people, please


Part 2 of 2 of a short “Bringing mHealth back to earth” series

From the start of our projects to the finish, it’s people who determine what FrontlineSMS:Medic does, when we do it, and why. The tech tools we use exist to serve patients, community health workers, and healthcare professionals – not the other way around. This mindset is critical for a number of reasons. I’ll explain.

We strongly believe that projects should start when clinics ‘pull’ them to a site, as opposed to having projects ‘pushed’ onto healthcare providers. Ken Banks included the (very important) push/pull differentiation in his “Development best practices for beginners” series. Clinics are not just convenient places to pilot technology innovations. Healthcare providers should demand programs they need, and we should be ready to respond. Local staff should determine how the tech will be used, and we should be flexible and helpful in working through use cases and functionality.

Andre Blackman posted this video of our SMS training at Pulse + Signal:

You’ll notice that I’m not in any of the shots. It wasn’t my place to train the community health workers – (1)  I don’t lead their other training sessions, and (2) I don’t speak Chichewa well. I’ll work one-on-one with those who need individual attention – although, the CHWs do self-organize into pairs, and those who need help will find it from others. We made it clear that local staff were running the show.

A quick and straightforward example of being responsive: On the first day of training, one of the CHWs was struggling to see the small letters on the cell phone…


So, we created handouts of blown-up number pads, which everyone ended up using.


Our work involves technology, but the focus is on the people. A bag full of cell phones without community health workers using them to serve patients is… just… heavy.

Posted: July 30th, 2009
Categories: Other posts
Comments: 10 Comments.
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