EGPAF Hosts Meeting on Mobile Technology for PMTCT

By Kelly Keisling, mHealth Working Group | August 29, 2013

Women at an antenatal care (ANC) clinic in Democratic Republic of the Congo. EGPAF is using mobile technologies to improve care for women and children living with HIV worldwide.

James Pursey/EGPAF

This blog is from the mHealth Working Group.

On August 15, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) hosted a monthly meeting of the mHealth Working Group to discuss how mobile health (mHealth) technology can be used to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) and improve early infant diagnosis (EID) of HIV.

MHealth is the use of mobile technologies – such as cell phones – in public health and health service settings. The mHealth Working Group is strengthening the capacity of organizations to integrate innovate[should this be innovative?] technology into health systems and health projects in developing countries.

EGPAF’s Vice President of Program Innovation and Policy, R.J. Simonds, MD, discussed the mHealth agenda. Dr. Simonds emphasized that mHealth could be used to support PMTCT through:
• Improving communication among health facilities, community health workers, and clients;
• Collecting and communicating clinical, laboratory, and supply chain data; and
• Training, mentoring, and decision-making support for health care workers.

In 2012, EGPAF collaborated with Johnson & Johnson, the mHealth Alliance, and Frog Design to conduct a workshop on promising areas for mHealth in PMTCT.  At the country level, some of EGPAF’s mHealth projects include the Pamoja SMS (short message service) project in Kenya, which supports health facilities to send HIV-focused SMS messages to health workers; a project in Mozambique that uses mobile phones to collect data to verify the quality of services at health facilities to determine performance-based financing; and Project SHINE in Uganda, which has sent more than 6,000 health information and reminder SMS messages to clients.

Roland Van de Ven, MD, technical director of EGPAF/Tanzania discussed several of EGPAF’s mHealth projects in Tanzania.  The “Love Me, Parents” project is a multi-partner effort to send SMS messages to pregnant mothers about a range of health topics related to safe motherhood, including PMTCT and EID. The project also links to health care workers to support enrollment of women into maternal and child health and HIV services at health facilities.

Dr. Van de Ven, with Peter Benjamin, PhD, head of capacity building for mHealth Alliance South Africa, discussed further collaboration between EGPAF/Tanzania and the mHealth Alliance to determine potential for country-specific mHealth projects, and developing “emHELP,” a system created with the support of Johnson & Johnson. emHELP will provide decision-making support, enabling health workers to offer care to clients more effectively; electronic patient records; tracking of mother-baby pairs for better health service provision; and SMS messages to improve attendance and retention in care for HIV-positive mothers and their HIV-exposed infants. Implementation is planned for September 2013.

The conversation on mHealth interventions and PMTCT was framed by Patricia Mechael, PhD, executive director of the mHealth Alliance. Dr. Mechael noted that the current evidence on mHealth for PMTCT is weak, but that further studies are underway. As demand for mHealth increases, services are required to provide training and cultivate partnerships. No single institution is fully equipped to implement every mHealth tool, so public and private sector efforts are needed.

EGPAF hosted the discussion as part of a monthly meeting series of the mHealth Working Group in Washington, D.C. The mHealth Working Group is a collaborative forum founded by implementing partners in 2009 for convening, knowledge sharing, promising practices, collaboration, capacity building, advocacy, and member leadership. The Working Group serves more than 1,400 members representing more than 450 organizations in 70 countries. You can join the mHealth Working Group listserv at http://knowledge-gateway.org/mhealth/join.

A blog on this event is also available on the NetHope Cloud Service Portal, sponsored by the World Bank.