Why was FrontlineSMS the right tool for St. Gabriel's Hospital?
I wrote a bit about the virtues of the software in July, amidst the implementation period. The program has been running for six months, and my latest trip allowed me to document the project's impact on primary care, treatment coordination, and hospital efficiency. Further, the SMS program has saved thousands of hours of travel time for CHWs and hospital staff, and bolstered the CHWs' status within their respective communities - which are now connected to the hospital's resources.
As Ken Banks recently stated, whether or not a mobile tool is suitable is "all about the context of the user." In succinct terms, here are a few reasons that Ken's tool was a the right fit for St. Gabriel's:
- It's free.
- It works with simple, readily-available hardware. I used recycled phones and didn't need to worry about the donated laptop's specifications.
- It doesn't require an internet connection. The hospital's web access is shaky, at best.
- It is incredibly intuitive and easy to use. The nurse running the program had never used a computer in his life. After one hour of training, he was off and FrontlineSMS-ing.
- The hospital found the tool - not the other way around. After I spent time at the hospital two summers ago, the need for connectivity was clear. To meet that need, a tool was employed. It wasn't forced on me or the hospital.
- Straightforward features allowed the hospital to take ownership and get creative, which encouraged user-driven functionality. One example: Auto-replies set to provide CHWs with immediate drug dosage and usage information.
- A ten-second demonstration can illustrate the program's purpose. This hooked clinical staff working within various hospital programs (e.g. HIV treatment coordinator, TB officer, PMTCT director).
- Past text messages, and vital patient informaiton, are just two clicks away.
In examining the success of the SMS initiative over the last half-year, the appropriateness of the technology cannot be ignored.