mHEALTH-INNOVATE (1) What can we learn from health workers' informal use of mobile phones? Introduction and overview

8 April, 2022

Dear HIFA colleagues,

HIFA is hosting a major discussion 11th April to 6th May 2022 on the informal use of mobile phones by health workers, in collaboration with Makerere University, Norwegian research institutes, WHO and others.

Background: Health workers are increasingly using mobile phones in their work.

Some uses are required as part of a health workers’ job. For example, they often use phones and apps supplied or approved for specified uses by their employer or organisation. But some of the uses are less formal, with health workers using phones in ways that are not specifically directed by your employer, but have been initiated, adapted or developed by health workers themselves.

Informal uses are clearly important and have the potential to strengthen or even transform health systems. They can include innovative solutions that can be more effective than formal uses. However, there are potential disadvantages: information is often shared and stored in ways that are unregulated and unmonitored, and may be a threat to data security and patient confidentiality. Informal use could also potentially undermine and weaken formal health systems.

We invite all HIFA members to contribute to these discussions to explore how mobile phones are used, their benefits and weaknesses, and how they could lead to better health care, particularly in resource-constrained settings. We are interested to hear how *you* use mobile phones in your everyday work, and examples of how mobile phones are used in your country. We invite comments around the use of mobile phones in general, but we are especially keen to hear about *informal* use of phones.

We need to hear from all stakeholders: health workers, members of civil society, policy makers, patients, and people working with digital health. Your contributions will be synthesised into a report that will help inform future policy and practice.

We invite you to comment on any or all of the following questions:

1. Do you use a mobile phone to help you in your work? How do you use it?

2. How do you use your phone to communicate with colleagues, patients and families?

3. How do you use your phone for other work-related purposes? (eg searching for healthcare information and guidance, tracking supplies, referring patients...)

4. Can you give any examples of *informal* use of mobile phones by health workers? (ie uses of mobile phones that have not been directed by the employer, but have been initiated, adapted or developed by health workers themselves)

5. How can the informal use of mobile phones be improved to strengthen healthcare?

To contribute to the discussion, just reply to this email message or send an email to Feel free to send a message today!

Please share this message widely with your networks and encourage others to join.

Many thanks, Neil

Neil Pakenham-Walsh, Global Coordinator HIFA,