IntraHealth International and UNICEF
mHero is a mobile phone based communication system that uses two-way, basic text messaging to connect to ministry of health and health workers.
mHero is a two-way mobile phone-based communication system that uses basic text messaging or SMS to connect to ministries of health, health workers, and community health workers. This product was created to support health sector communication during the Ebola outbreak in Liberia in August 2014. Since then, the platform has been integrated by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare into its health information system infrastructure to meet communication needs of variety of health services.
As of May 2019, this platform has been implemented in Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Tanzania
West Africa: Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali
mHero is free to use. The biggest cost associated with implementing this product is capacity building within ministries of health to ensure that it can be effectively situated within the existing program. One typical expense for building capacity within ministry is the addition of a salaried staff member to maintain the program.Interview with representative
Additionally, the ministry must obtain a short code from a Mobile Network Operator (MNO) to ensure no SMS costs to health workers. The cost of a short code is typically a couple thousand dollars per 3 months, but in some cases the MNO provides a short code for free.Interview with representative
Goal 3: Good health and well-being
Ministries of health, health workers, and health information system community
mHero works by the OpenHIE standards. The platform makes use of different open source technologies:
– iHRIS: Open source software for managing health workforce information, developed by IntraHealth International
– DHIS 2: Developed by the Health Information System Programme at the University of Oslo.This is a web-based health management information system with visualization features
– RapidPro: An open source framework designed by UNICEF to send and receive data using basic mobile phones, manage complex workflows, automate analysis, and present data in real-time
– OpenHIE’s InterLinked Health Worker Registry: An application developed by OpenHIE that aggregates attributes for health workers from multiple human resource information systems and can share and validate health worker information using messaging standards
Instructions for installation and configuration of mHero are available online.
22 distinct use cases have reached over 5,000 health workers in Liberia as of May 2016. Experts note that the ability for mHero to be integrated with mobile network operators suits a larger deployment. This product has also been implemented in Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Senegal and Tanzania as of May 2019.
Connectivity requirement for the product/service to work (mobile internet, SMS, voice, fixed internet, Wi-Fi, other [specify]).
Coverage required for the product/service to work (2G, 3G, 4G, LTE, broadband, dial-up, other [specify]).
Device features required for the product/service to work (bluetooth, Wi-Fi, camera, IVR, GPS, accelerometers/motion sensors, physiologic biosensors, biometric identifiers, SIM, memory card (e.g microSD), other [specify]).
Device(s) type required for the product/service to work (smartphone, feature phone, computer, tablet, other [specify]).
Connectivity requirement for the product/service to work. Some apps/services can work offline. If no, specify if network connectivity is needed at any point (e.g connectivity needed for download).
Is the product/service able to receive and send back information to the user?
Rates of user vs downloads/subscriptions – Compliance rate for the eHealth service
Support according to the literacy level required from the user. If yes, specify type of literacy support. If no, the user is intended to be literate.
Operating system required and software version (Android, IOs, Windows, other [specify])
Power supply required for the product/service to work (uninterrupted prower supply (UPS), ocassional power supply [minimum time required], other).
Education and behavior change, human resource management, decision support, data collection & analytics, electronic medical records, Healthcare provider- CHW training, telemedicine/remote diagnostic, stock management, disease surveillance and reporting
mHero can work with any health workforce information system or communication software that is compliant with the global OpenHIE principles for health information exchange. Health officials can use mHero to:
– Communicate critical messages to health workers during a crisis or emergency response
– Target messages to health workers based on cadre, location, or skill set
– Collect critical information that powers resilient health systems, including stock levels, routine and one-time assessments, and validation of health worker and facility data
– Provide care reminders and manage client referrals to strengthen clinical support
Ministries of Health must have internet in order to use this system. MHero provides ministries with a cloud server for back-up.Interview with representative RapidPro has the capability to use interactive voice response (IVR) although this feature is not being used for most mHero messages.Interview with representative
Tools and resources are available on the mHero website to assist implementers and donors with effectively using mHero. IntraHealth provides guidance to ministry staff while setting up mHero.
mHero was piloted in four counties in Liberia in December 2014. During the pilot, mHero sent an SMS message to 482 health workers. Of the 289 health workers reached, 57% (n=165) responded to the first mHero message and three-fourths (72% or n=119) of those who responded to the first message completed all 15 questions in the workflow.
The pilot was also successfully tested in Sierra Leone. A validation message was sent to over 8,000 health workers and 2,181 individuals responded to the first message.
Akaninyene, O., Ebenso, B., Okuzu, O. and Osifo-Dawodu, E., 2016, Using a mHealth Tutorial Application to Change Knowledge and Attitude of Frontline Health Workers to Ebola Virus Disease in Nigeria: a Before-and-After Study, Human Resources for Health, 14(5).
mHero adheres to the Care Services Delivery standard. Other standards that will soon be supported by mHero are the Mobile Alert Communication Management and the Aggregate Data Exchange standards. The development and deployment of mHero has aligned with the 9 Principles for Digital Development. mHero has partnered with Dimagi to work towards integrating mHero with CommCare.Interview with representative
Pilot studies were done in Liberia where 482 SMSs were sent to health workers to validate their phone numbers, location, job title, supervisor and facility. Only 289 of the health workers were reached due to ongoing negotiations of mobile network operator contracts.Of the 289 workers reached, there were 119 respondents.
Recipient of USAID’s Ebola Grand Challenge Award.
Liberia’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has included mHero as an official strategy in its new Investment Plan for Building a Resilient Health System.
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