mHEALTH-INNOVATE (10) What can we learn from health workers' informal use of mobile phones? (5)

11 April, 2022

Dear HIFA members,

I’m one of the principle investigators of the mHEALTH-INNOVATE project alongside Professor Nelson Sewankambo at Makerere University. I’m a health systems researcher and I’ve been interested in health workers’ use of mobile phones since I was involved in the WHO guidelines on digital interventions for health systems strengthening in 2019 ( Since then, we have been hearing a lot about how health workers are using mobile phones informally to try and fix gaps in the healthcare system. For instance, we hear about health workers setting up their own Whatsapp groups to give each other help and support, health workers who are setting up their own phone-based systems to keep track of medicines and supplies, etc. While they often see these as good solution, there may also be some disadvantages. For instance, some people are concerned about patient confidentiality when information is shared in Whatsapp groups. Some people are also concerned that ‘shadow IT systems’, for instance informal systems for tracking supplies, don’t allow the formal healthcare system to track what is going on and prevents the formal system from improving.

We haven’t been able to find much research on this topic, and we are hoping that the HIFA discussions will help us understand what is going on ‘on the ground’ and what health workers think about the use of mobile phones, and particularly about these more informal solutions.

Thanks and best wishes, Claire

HIFA profile: Claire Glenton is a health systems researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and editor with the Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care (EPOC) Group. Claire has a particular interest in systematic review methodology, including methods for disseminating the results of systematic reviews and methods for synthesising qualitative research. She regularly serves as technical advisor on World Health Organization guidelines. She also co-coordinates the GRADE-CERQual Project Group. She is one of the principal investigators of the mHEALTH-INNOVATE, looking at informal use of mobile phones by health workers.

Email address: claire.glenton AT