John Koku Awoonor-Williams, MD, MPH, MPP
Dr. Awoonor-Williams is the regional director of the Ghana Health Services for the Upper East Region and the Health Services lead for MoTeCH in Ghana.
James Phillips, PhD
Dr. Phillips is professor of Clinical Population and Family Health and the Columbia University lead for MoTeCH in Ghana.
The Mobile Technology for Community Health (MoTeCH) project aims to determine whether mobile phones can be an effective tool in managing healthcare data and transmitting health information to remote populations, with the ultimate goal of improving maternal and child health outcomes in rural Ghana. The project is led by the Ghana Health Services, in partnership with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the Grameen Foundation.
While Ghana has made major strides in maternal and child health, significant challenges remain, especially in rural regions. Nationally, a quarter of Ghanaian women receive no care after delivering a baby, and infant mortality remains high at 51 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. By working closely with local community members, district and regional health management teams and other stakeholders, MoTeCH has developed a mobile technology platform and a simplified health record-keeping system designed to bring quality care to families in rural Ghana. This new, streamlined system for maintaining patient records links child and maternal healthcare services provided by community-based nurses to the populations they serve.
Launched in May 2010, the innovative project seeks to improve upon the healthcare system by engaging two audiences: pregnant women and their partners, and regional healthcare workers. MoTeCH uses mobile technology to disseminate home-based health education to families and to encourage them to seek pre-pregnancy and child health services. Pregnant women and their partners can receive regular, customized messages in voice or text format based on their baby’s due date. The messages are informative, actionable and in local languages. Community Health Officers—part of the Community-based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) Initiative—are able to electronically enter patient encounters, generate reports, and close the data loop using inexpensive mobile phones. District and regional management are actively engaged with the CHPS level of services to streamline operations.
MoTeCH is truly cutting-edge. It fills critical knowledge gaps about the feasibility of using mobile phone technology to improve routine health information operations, and demonstrates the possibility of using information systems as a tool to deliver community healthcare more efficiently and effectively. In addition, the project leverages the momentum created when the government of Ghana made a national commitment to scale up the CHPS program of community-driven healthcare services in 2006.
The research arm of the project will test whether technology can strengthen community-based healthcare services--an approach increasingly used throughout the developing world. Researchers will assess changes in behavior and healthcare coverage and examine how the MoTeCH system can been used to measurably improve prenatal and neonatal care in rural Ghana.
MoTeCH got off to an excellent start. Over 1,200 mothers registered for the program in the first month, community support was strong, and the technology roll-out was marked by few glitches. The program continues to grow. District managers and researchers expect that Ghana’s MoTeCH project will provide an international model for the use of mobile technology to strengthen heathcare systems and delivery in underserved regions of the world.
A generous grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funds the MoTeCH Project.