Background: Given the shortage of skilled healthcare providers in Nigeria, frontline community health extension workers (CHEWs) are commonly tasked with providing maternal and child health services at primary health centers. In 2012, we introduced a mobile case management and decision support application in twenty primary health centers in northern Nigeria, and conducted a pre-test/post-test study to assess whether the introduction of the app had an effect on the quality of antenatal care services provided by this lower-level cadre.
Methods: Using the CommCare mobile platform, the app dynamically guides CHEWs through antenatal care protocols and collects client data in real time. Thirteen health education audio clips are also embedded in the app for improving and standardizing client counseling. To detect changes in quality, we developed an evidence-based quality score consisting of 25 indicators, and conducted a total of 266 client exit interviews. We analyzed baseline and endline data to assess changes in the overall quality score as well as changes in the provision of key elements of antenatal care.
Results: Overall, the quality score increased from 13.3 at baseline to 17.2 at endline (p<0.0001), out of a total possible score of 25, with the most significant improvements related to health counseling, technical services provided, and quality of health education.
Conclusion: These study results suggest that the introduction of a low-cost mobile case management and decision support application can spur behavior change and improve the quality of services provided by a lower level cadre of healthcare workers. Future research should employ a more rigorous experimental design to explore potential longer-term effects on client health outcomes.