In low-income regions, mobile phone-based tools can improve the scope and efficiency of field health workers. They can also address challenges in monitoring and supervising a large number of geographically distributed health workers. Several tools have been built and deployed in the field, but little comparison has been done to help understand their effectiveness. This is largely because no framework exists in which to analyze the different ways in which the tools help strengthen existing health systems. In this article we highlight 6 key functions that health systems currently perform where mobile tools can provide the most benefit. Using these 6 health system functions, we compare existing applications for community health workers, an important class of field health workers who use these technologies, and discuss common challenges and lessons learned about deploying mobile tools.
© 2011 Mount Sinai School of Medicine.