Overcoming the Challenges of Delivering mHealth to Underserved, Under-Resourced Clinical Environments around the World
Health eVillages pilot sites provide mHealth technology to medical professionals in some of the most underserved areas around the globe. In our mission to empower clinicians to improve the quality of care in their communities, we have overcome many challenges – some expected and some not. By working hand in hand with our partners at the pilot sites, Health eVillages is ensuring that the technology and resources provided are accessible to clinicians, meaningful to their patients, and responsive to emerging needs.
Language: Not Lost in Translation
In Haiti, French is the “language of medicine”, and the Haitian nurse educators participating in Health eVillages all have different levels of English competency. No matter how great the technology or innovation, if users can’t access it, it can’t help anybody. In Haiti, we addressed the language barrier by partnering with Medical Aid Films to deliver French-language educational content via Health eVillages devices. Next, we updated the devices with third party Creole and French language medical apps. Then, we trained the nurse educators on the technology and helped them see the value of the medical information at their fingertips for themselves, their nursing students, and their patients. Nearly all the nurses reported a rise in consistent use—many using the devices daily to form lesson plans for nursing students, to research treatment protocols, and to further enhance their own education.
Power: Working off the Grid
Often, Health eVillages pilot sites have unreliable electricity or none at all. At our pilot site in central Uganda, electrical outlets do not exist. How can modern technology like Health eVillages be useful in a remote clinical setting when there is no power? Health eVillages partnered with Suntactics to provide small, solar-powered chargers to the Ugandan clinic to solve this problem. Now, thanks to the devices and chargers, clinicians there have access to vast medical libraries and tools generations beyond what they had in the past.
Internet: Making Mobile Connections
Many Health eVillages pilot locations lack reliable Internet service. Because Health eVillages devices are pre-loaded with customized clinical decision support and medical reference resources that are not dependent on the Internet, providers on the ground can reap the benefits of the technology immediately.
Training: Providing Tools & Teachers
Many of the providers we work with had very limited exposure to technology and needed training on the basic use of the devices (iPod Touch, iPad, Android), as well as on the software and tools provided by Skyscape and our other partners. Dr. Mark Newton, our Kijabe, Kenya, pilot champion who runs the Anesthesiology Department at the teaching hospital there, wrote to us recently about how valuable the tools and training Health eVillages provides is to those who care for their underserved communities. He noted, “We can use technology, which has become so common in western countries, in a manner that is empowering, so those who were raised in huts without even a light bulb can now use a device to save a life through education.”
By addressing barriers to adopting life-saving technology, Health eVillages enables doctors, nurses, and community health workers to immediately and effectively research treatments and medications, diagnose patients, and educate patients and themselves. Health eVillages can’t save every life. What it can do is give clinicians the knowledge and training necessary to do their very best for their patients, their community, and their own corner of the world.