Assessing scale-up of mHealth innovations based on intervention complexity: two case studies of child health programs in Malawi and Zambia.

Publication Date: 
Mar 17, 2015

As interest in mHealth (including Short Message Services or SMS) increases, it is important to assess potential benefits and limitations of this technology in improving interventions in resource-poor settings. The authors analyzed two case studies (early infant diagnosis of HIV and nutrition surveillance) of three projects in Malawi and Zambia using a conceptual framework that assesses the technical complexity of the programs, with and without the use of SMS technology. The authors based their findings on literature and discussions with key informants involved in the programs. For both interventions, introducing SMS reduced barriers to effective and timely delivery of services by simplifying the tracking and analysis of data and improving communication between healthcare providers. However, the primary implementation challenges for both interventions were related to broader program delivery characteristics (e.g., human resource needs and transportation requirements) that are not easily addressed by the addition of SMS. The addition of SMS technology itself introduced new layers of complexity.