Defining a staged-based process for economic and financial evaluations of mHealth programs

Cost Eff Resour Alloc. 2017 Apr 17:15:5. doi: 10.1186/s12962-017-0067-6. eCollection 2017.


Mobile and wireless technology for health (mHealth) has the potential to improve health outcomes by addressing critical health systems constraints that impede coverage, utilization, and effectiveness of health services. To date, few mHealth programs have been implemented at scale and there remains a paucity of evidence on their effectiveness and value for money. This paper aims to improve understanding among mHealth program managers and key stakeholders of how to select methods for economic evaluation (comparative analysis for determining value for money) and financial evaluation (determination of the cost of implementing an intervention, estimation of costs for sustaining or expanding an intervention, and assessment of its affordability). We outline a 6 stage-based process for selecting and integrating economic and financial evaluation methods into the monitoring and evaluation of mHealth solutions including (1) defining the program strategy and linkages with key outcomes, (2) assessment of effectiveness, (3) full economic evaluation or partial evaluation, (4) sub-group analyses, (5) estimating resource requirements for expansion, (6) affordability assessment and identification of models for financial sustainability. While application of these stages optimally occurs linearly, finite resources, limited technical expertise, and the timing of evaluation initiation may impede this. We recommend that analysts prioritize economic and financial evaluation methods based on programmatic linkages with health outcomes; alignment with an mHealth solution's broader stage of maturity and stage of evaluation; overarching monitoring and evaluation activities; stakeholder evidence needs; time point of initiation; and available resources for evaluations.

Keywords: Costs; Digital health; Economic evaluation; Financial evaluation; mHealth.