Objective: To analyse, on the basis of the literature, the potential of mobile phones to improve maternal health services in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC).
Methods: Wide search for scientific and grey literature using various terms linked to: maternal health, mobile telecommunication and LMIC. Applications requiring an internet connection were excluded as this is not widely available in LMIC yet.
Results: Few projects exist in this field and little evidence is available as yet on the impact of mobile phones on the quality of maternal health services. Projects focus mainly on the delay in receiving care--that is in recognizing the need and making the decision to seek care--and the delay in arriving at the health facility. This is achieved by connecting lesser trained health workers to specialists and coordination of referrals. Ongoing projects focus on empowering women to seek health care.
Discussion: There is broad agreement that access to communication is one of several essential components to improve maternal health services and hence the use of mobile phones has much potential. However, there is a need for robust evidence on constraints and impacts, especially when financial and human resources will be invested. Concurrently, other ways in which mobile phones can be used to benefit maternal health services need to be further explored, taking into consideration privacy and confidentiality.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.