Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Tablets Improve Family Planning Service in Rural Kenya

November 18, 2013

Last week the Girls’ Globe team was in Addis Ababa for the International Conference on Family Planning. It was wonderful to interact with so many leaders in the fields of family planning and sexual and reproductive health. Many of the conversations and discussions that took place here centered on the use of mobile technology as a medium for creating greater access to family planning information and resources. 

 In Kenya, mobile technology usage is quickly becoming more popular. While these solutions increase access to services, many rural health facilities lack ability to provide adequate service delivery.In Kenya, mobile technology usage is quickly becoming more popular especially in urban areas. Various family planning solutions utilize mobile phones to send simple SMS messages to generate surveys and to share important messages to increase access to, and awareness of, family planning services. While these solutions increase access to services, many rural health facilities lack ability to provide adequate service delivery. Rural health facilities often do not have the proper guidelines, information and resources to provide family planning services to women in need. Commodity shortages and the inability to track data are significant challenges.

In the past several years, Kenya’s Ministry of Health and reproductive health offices have sought to find innovative solutions to address these challenges. ZIDI, which in Swahili means “to exceed” is an innovative mobile application that improves the monitoring and evaluation of health services, including family planning, in dispensaries and clinics. The project was piloted last year in the Muhoroni District of rural Kenya. The project was designed by Micro-Clinic technologies in partnership with Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and the Ogra Foundation.

ZIDI is an internet enabled program which provides rural health care workers with the technology to store patient information, track records, manage commodity shipments, and prompt healthcare workers with relevant family planning related questions for patients. ZIDI tracks consumption of commodities in real time and auto-generates ordering forms. This innovative tool utilizes algorithms to reveal specific details about a patient’s health. The program is provided to health workers via a mobile tablet. The device has an offline function which enables healthcare workers to use the tool without internet access. Healthcare workers are trained on how to use the device as well as the tablet functions.

After 12 months, the positive project outcomes reveal that ZIDI has the ability to strengthen healthcare workers efficiency and family planning service delivery. Mobile solutions indeed have the ability to strengthen the quality of care for patients. However, the project has encountered some challenges. Sustainability for the program was cited as a main challenge. Each tablet costs around USD $180 which is not affordable for most rural health clinics. In addition, access to electricity and solving technical issues are also factors for consideration.

During a session on Wednesday, Wambui Wathaka, from MSH, presented ZIDI and explained plans to address the challenges as well as scale up the project to reach more rural healthcare workers and clinics in Kenya. She states,

“The Ministry of Health is planning to scale up the project in central Kenya.”

Project leaders are looking for internal donors to contribute to the expansion of the project. When asked about the challenges related to the cost of the tablet, Wambui shared that Microsoft has committed to provide the necessary funds so that tablets are provided to clinics and dispensaries at current project cites.

What will mobile technology and family planning service delivery look like for  FP2020Progress?

The ZIDI project is definitely making strides to bring innovation and new technology to help healthcare workers provide better service to women seeking family planning services.  

Want to read more about sessions related to the ICFP? Visit Girls’ Globe!

 
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