An mHealth Platform for Health Care Workers to Link South Africans to HIV Care

Abstract:  The South African National Development Plan recognizes the value of health care delivery models such as home based counselling and testing (HBCT) by aiming to train between 700,000 and 1.3 million community health workers (CHW) to implement community-based health care by 2030. The CHW role include working with households to facilitate access and linkage to primary health care facilities, provide outreach and community organization support, health education and coaching on health system navigation. Key barriers to sustainability and scale-up of community health worker programs include: i) a lack of integration between CHW and the health system; ii) poor tracking of how many people receive health services in their home; and iii) once referrals are successful, inadequate communication about the referral to and from the referral site. The South African health information system is currently ill equipped to handle these challenges and needs to be strengthened. We propose a 2-year study to develop and test a mHealth platform aimed at addressing these challenges for persons living with HIV (PLH). We focus on HIV due to the high prevalence rates in South Africa and impact that mobile technologies can make on HIV care. A mHealth platform will be developed that can be used by CHW to enroll household members and track their movement into and between health facilities. It will provide a standard interface by which current and future systems can query the stored data, thereby increasing interoperability and long term sustainability. The platform will unobtrusively support communication between clinic-based health providers and CHW supervisors. In summary, we aim to:1) Assess the perceived barriers and benefits to implementing an mHealth platform to link PLH to care through key informant interviews and foucs groups with health officials, clinic staff, CHW, and PLH; 2) Develop an mHealth platform that is inexpensive, scalable, open to integration, and can monitor patients from HBCT into facility based health care; and 3) Pilot test the mHealth platform and compare linkage to care between PLH from two communities that deploy our mHealth platform (mHealth communities) and PLH from two control communities where HBCT is currently being conducted without our mHealth platform. In the mHealth communities, we will also evaluate process measures to identify bottle necks between HBCT and visitation to an mHealth clinic.

Project Number5R21MH16351-02