This blog is co-authored by Leah McManus, Program Officer at IntraHealth International and Priscilla Chomba Kinywa, Innovations & T4D Officer at UNICEF. Both worked in Liberia in November and December 2014 and have traveled back regularly to support the Government of Liberia in implementing innovative solutions for the EVD response.

mHero May Be the Tech Response to Ebola that Liberia’s Health Workers Need

mHero operates using open data standards based on OpenHIE and is extensible through a number of tools developed in the mHealth ecosystem, including IntraHealth’s iHRIS. Using such standards, mHero can “speak” to various systems, allowing for data to be shared and utilized with ease.

In our day-to-day work supporting mHero, there is a lot of tech speak about workflows, data standards, and codes. But perhaps the most exciting part has been witnessing how different players—humanitarian and aid agencies, international nongovernmental organizations, and Liberian government officials—have brought together their different and highly varied types of technical expertise.

MOH Liberia staff (credit: Leah McManus)
MOH Liberia staff (credit: Leah McManus)

We’re a good example of how experts in technology and in human resources for health are working shoulder-to-shoulder to create and adapt software platforms to meet the Ministry of Health’s specific operational needs as the country responds to Ebola.

If you were eavesdropping on our conversation about mHero, you might have a tough time pointing out which of us is the tech geek and which is the health systems strengthening expert. That’s because mHero requires each of us to understand the different components of the system if we’re to work together on it.

When UNICEF and IntraHealth first sat down with Liberia’s Ministry of Health to discuss the government’s needs, an mHero team comprising seven staff members from within the ministry quickly came together. Now this team, with support from Leah, meets daily to decide on use cases, determine deployment strategies, develop workplans, and generally brainstorm the mHero approach for Liberia to ensure that it’s a sustainable structure within the ministry.

MOH Liberia staff (credit: Leah McManus)
MOH Liberia staff (credit: Leah McManus)

One of the team members offered his view on mHero: “mHero allows for streamlined communication, allows health workers to feel a part of the process, makes them feel important and motivated, and clears the doubts in their minds about the central ministry being there for them,” he said.

MOH Liberia staff (credit: Leah McManus)
MOH Liberia staff (credit: Leah McManus)

The first pilot, designed by the ministry’s mHero team, was conducted at the beginning of December. The pilot involved verifying the contact information of health workers to ensure that health workers are receiving messages on the cell phone numbers associated with their personnel records, allowing for the strong base in information for future messaging. In addition, these messages are being used to document successes and challenges for improvement.

Health worker inputting data via mobile phone, Zambia
Health worker inputting data via mobile phone, Zambia
Health worker inputting data via mobile phone, Zambia
Health worker inputting data via mobile phone, Zambia

By harnessing the power of open-source technologies, working on principles of collaboration, and ensuring the government drives the process of development and deployment, mHero can now be used in Liberia and other countries as a strong communication, planning, and management tool for the Ministry of Health, both in the fight against Ebola and beyond.

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