Medicine dosing tool valuable for community health workers

A tailored cell phone-based medicine dosing tool has been found to be "useful and acceptable" based on a survey of community health workers operating in rural Mexico and Guatemala, according to an article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

"Frontline health workers such as Community Health Workers (CHWs) have been shown to be effective in extending the reach of care, yet only a few medicine dosing tools are available to them," asserts the article.

To address this shortfall, Dr. Daniel Palazuelos of Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Boston-based non-governmental organization Partners In Health developed an mHealth medicine dosing tool tailored to the skill level of CHWs to assist in the delivery of care. 

According to the article, perceptions and impressions of this tool were collected and compared to an existing paper-based medicine dosing tool. The study consisted of applying an original survey to, and conducting interviews with, participating CHWs in Mexico and Guatemala.

"The streamlined workflow of the mHealth tool and benefits such as the speed and self-lighting were found to be particularly useful features," states the article. "Well designed and positioned tools such as this may improve effective task shifting by reinforcing the tasks that different cadres of workers are asked to perform."

Eighty-two percent of the 17 CHWs surveyed chose the mHealth tool for at least 1 of 7 questions compared to 53 percent who chose to use the paper-based tool. Ninety-three percent rated the phone as being easy or very easy to use, and 56 percent who used the paper-based tool rated it as easy or very easy.

In addition, dosing accuracy was generally higher among questions answered using the mHealth tool relative to questions answered using the paper-based tool. Moreover, analysis of major qualitative themes indicated that the mHealth tool was perceived as being quick, easy to use, and as having complete information, according to the article.

Future studies, the article argues, should "explore how to best implement this mHealth tool in real-world settings, including how to incorporate the best elements of the paper-based tool that were also found to be helpful."

In January, another JMIR article concluded that opportunities exist for mHealth to play a critical role in low- and middle-income countries where CHWs deliver integrated community case management to children sick with malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea. Nevertheless, the review found very few formal outcome evaluations of mHealth in these countries and despite "vast documentation of project process evaluations," there were few studies demonstrating an impact on clinical outcomes.

To learn more:
- read the JMIR article