Introducing eHealth strategies to enhance maternal and perinatal health care in rural Tanzania

Matern Health Neonatol Perinatol. 2017 Jan 19;3:3. doi: 10.1186/s40748-017-0042-4. eCollection 2017.

Abstract

Background: Globally, eHealth has attracted considerable attention as a means of supporting maternal and perinatal health care. This article describes best practices, gains and challenges of implementing eHealth for maternal and perinatal health care in extremely remote and rural Tanzania.

Methods: Teleconsultation for obstetric emergency care, audio teleconferences and online eLearning systems were installed in ten upgraded rural health centres, four rural district hospitals and one regional hospital in Tanzania. Uptake of teleconsultation and teleconference platforms were evaluated retrospectively. A cross sectional descriptive study design was applied to assess performance and adoption of eLearning.

Results: In 2015 a total of 38 teleconsultations were attended by consultant obstetricians and 33 teleconferences were conducted and attended by 40 health care providers from 14 facilities. A total of 240 clinical cases mainly caesarean sections (CS), maternal and perinatal morbidities and mortalities were discussed and recommendations for improvement were provided. Four modules were hosted and 43 care providers were registered on the eLearning system. For a period of 18-21 months total views on the site, weekly conference forum, chatroom and learning resources ranged between 106 and 1,438. Completion of learning modules, acknowledgment of having acquired and utilized new knowledge and skills in clinical practice were reported in 43-89% of 20 interviewed health care providers. Competencies in using the eLearning system were demonstrated in 62% of the targeted users.

Conclusions: E-Health presents an opportunity for improving maternal health care in underserved remote areas in low-resource settings by broadening knowledge and skills, and by connecting frontline care providers with consultants for emergency teleconsultations.

Keywords: EHealth; Maternal health; Rural settings; Tanzania; Teleconference; Teleconsultation; eLearning.