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We built the mobile app that health workers deserve

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October 28, 2015

Author: Josh Nesbit

When a health worker said, "I want to pull out my phone, plan who I am going to see, and make sure I don't miss anything," we listened.

Our product team has been hard at work building a new Android app designed for community health workers. After six months of design and development, moving from sketches and paper prototypes to focus groups with a functioning app, we are approaching the first deployment. We are excited to share what we've been building.

Frontline health workers provide care for neighbors at the most critical times. They also serve as proactive agents of change in their communities. We believe these health workers deserve amazing technology that works for them — Medic Mobile for Android was designed for a new wave of community health workers and integrated health systems.

The new app provides an automated, prioritized list of upcoming tasks. In the app, community health workers are guided through actions — such as screening for high-risk pregnancies or diagnosing and providing treatments for children. It also shows progress towards their goals, and allows remote health workers to communicate with contacts and central support teams.

How it works, from the perspective of a health worker

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Tasks: My home screen is a smart task list. It directs me to the people who need my help and provides information about the patient or family, a due date for the task, and a step-by-step guide for the action.

Contacts: The app organizes information based on people and their relationships. My contacts list is searchable and lets me quickly access family or person profiles. These profiles display key information about people, upcoming tasks, available actions, and a history of things I've done for them in the past. I can also call or text contacts straight from the app.

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Actions: As a health worker, I provide an array of services in my community. The app guides me through different actions, such as registering a new pregnancy and screening for danger signs, or assessing childhood illnesses and providing treatment. These forms include images and videos, decision support logic, and a results screen with next steps. When I do something, it's logged in my app and automatically uploaded to a central location.

Targets: The app shows me the progress I'm making towards my targets. I care about meeting goals for my work, and I know my managers are reviewing the same visualizations.

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Partnering with Living Goods

We have been incredibly fortunate to partner with Living Goods on this new product. Over the past year, we have worked side-by-side with the Living Goods team and community health promoters in Uganda to identify the most important features, design and test the user experience and user interface, and configure the application for an initial deployment in Uganda. The Living Goods app will support their high-impact model being replicated in multiple countries. Because of a shared vision for broad reach, the app was designed with flexibility to accommodate new contexts, devices, content, and logic.

Why we are excited

The cost of smartphones and mobile data continue to drop. Community health worker (CHW) programs are becoming more professionalized, and there is a compelling case for training, equipping, managing, paying and incentivizing CHWs. Medic Mobile and our partners saw the opportunity to put more powerful tools in the hands of decentralized, community-based health workers.

CHWs have unique knowledge of their community and ability to provide care and services that reach people. We set out to build an intuitive, person-centered app that worked for them and their community in smart ways — it's time to move beyond data collection.

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Medic Mobile for Android is an offline web app with an Android container, delivering the benefits of the web and a native app. Data from every mobile user is replicated to Medic Mobile's hosted web app and analytics tools, providing access to clinic teams and managers.

We were able to build this quickly by using existing tools, extending the Medic Mobile web app to mobile. We embedded the Enketo forms engine to allow for flexible, easy-to-configure actions (forms, under the hood) that can be updated for users in the background. In addition, we used the Nools rules engine to power the smart tasks.

What's happening next

The field test for the Living Goods app in Uganda is launching soon, and we'll share what we're learning with the initial group of CHPs.

It's our job to harness the full power of the web, low-cost smartphones, and management strategies to support frontline health workers. We're just beginning to unlock the potential for this new application — Medic Mobile's tools are free and open source, and we welcome questions, ideas, and collaborations!

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