Health workers' perspectives of a mobile health tool to improve diagnosis and management of paediatric acute respiratory illnesses in Uganda: a qualitative study

BMJ Open. 2021 Jul 19;11(7):e049708. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-049708.


Objectives: Mobile health tools have potential to improve the diagnosis and management of acute lower respiratory illnesses (ALRI), a leading cause of paediatric mortality worldwide. The objectives were to evaluate health workers' perceptions of acceptability, usability and feasibility of Acute Lower Respiratory Illness Treatment and Evaluation (ALRITE), a novel mobile health tool to help frontline health workers diagnose, treat and provide education about ALRI in children <5 years.

Design: A qualitative study including semistructured interviews with health facility administrators and focus groups with primary care health workers.

Setting: Two federally funded Ugandan primary care health facilities, one peri-urban and one rural.

Participants: We enrolled 3 health administrators and 28 health workers (clinical officers and nurses).

Intervention: The ALRITE smartphone application was developed to help frontline health workers adhere to ALRI guidelines and differentiate wheezing illnesses from pneumonia in children under 5 years of age. ALRITE contains a simple decision tree, a partially automated respiratory rate counter, educational videos and an adapted respiratory assessment score to determine bronchodilator responsiveness. We performed a demonstration of ALRITE for participants at the beginning of interviews and focus groups. No participant had used ALRITE prior.

Results: Themes impacting the potential implementation of ALRITE were organised using individual-level, clinic-level and health-system level determinants. Individual-level determinants were acceptability and perceived benefit, usability, provider needs and provider-patient relationship. Clinic-level determinants were limited resources and integration within the health centre. Systems-level determinants included medication shortages and stakeholder engagement.

Conclusions: Incorporation of these themes will ready ALRITE for field testing. Early engagement of end users provides insights critical to the development of tailored mHealth decision support tools.

Keywords: community child health; international health services; paediatric thoracic medicine; public health; qualitative research; respiratory infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Qualitative Research
  • Telemedicine*
  • Uganda