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Table 4 Three case examples of mHealth applications in community-based services in South Africa

From: Applying a framework for assessing the health system challenges to scaling up mHealth in South Africa

Example Organisation Community-based services research Medical Research Council of South Africa (MRC): Health Systems Research Unit Monitoring of facility based lay workers NGO: Community Media Trust (CMT) Information collection on community-based services NGOs: Choice Trust and Valley Trust
Setting · The Good Start research study, conducted by MRC. The study was a large scale community-based, cluster RCT promoting ante- and post natal care in rural and peri-urban areas in Western Cape and Kwazulu-Natal provinces. · A social-media NGO providing health awareness education and treatment literacy at clinics and schools throughout South Africa. · Two community-based health care NGOs in the Limpopo and Kwazulu-Natal provinces, providing health promotion and prevention services for HIV, TB and chronic disease.
Purpose of mHealth application · Daily data collection and monitoring of community health worker (CHW) activities. · Increase efficiency of monitoring and supervision of treatment literacy practitioners (TLPs). · Feasibility and efficiency of a mobile management software application, for monitoring and evaluation of CBS, compared to a paper-based monitoring system.
  · Management and supervision of large numbers of CHWs.   
Nature of mHealth application · Mobile phones combined with web-based interface for data collection, management and supervision. · Mobile phones used for electronic reporting of core indicators in daily work. · CHW electronic data collection from any location with immediate transmission to their supervisors.
  · Focus on recruitment of study mothers, monitoring the fidelity of the intervention delivery, and managing caseloads and reporting. · TLPs filled in their pre-loaded work log sheet on their mobile phones from any location and immediately transmitted it to a web-based consol. · CHWs used a patient specific bar code to log into the mobile management system via the phone, to update patient records during home visits.
  · CHWs issued with entry-level mobile phones with pre-loaded electronic survey forms for data capturing.   
  · Able to immediately enter data collected from their allocated households and transmit completed forms via mobile phones, using internet connectivity, to a central computer server. · Allowed managers to access, aggregate, analyse, correct errors and report on TLPs’ activities more quickly. · Data captured and stored on custom-designed web-based patient and workforce management system accessible to supervisors.
  · Supervisors used a custom-designed management console (or computer terminal) for daily access to data, monitoring and planning of CHW activity. · A management console allowed for aggregation of data and auto-generated management reports. · Allowed doctors and nurses at clinic level to interact with the data using a web browser, to monitor patient follow-up.
Software development · The electronic survey form and management console developed in collaboration with a for-profit digital provider, using a proprietary software application called Mobenzi Researcher. · A software system, called Capture, was developed by a non-profit digital provider, using open-source software. · A software system, called Nompilo, was developed by a for-profit digital provider, using proprietary software.