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Moving mHealth Beyond Pilot Initiatives: Support to National mHealth Strategy Development in Tanzania

March 2011–December 2011 || U.S. Agency for International Development

Abstract

The rapid proliferation of mobile health (mHealth) initiatives has outpaced the development of accompanying standards, strategies and mechanisms which will support their effective deployment when taken to scale. Deloitte Consulting LLP is supporting the Tanzanian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW) to address this problem and help create the essential foundation for oversight, monitoring, and coordination. Deloitte helped the MoHSW to employ a highly participatory approach to stimulate discussion as well as a country-led and owned process for developing a national mHealth strategy and roadmap. Diverse stakeholders including the Tanzanian government, public and private healthcare providers, international donors, mobile network operators, mobile application developers, nongovernmental organizations, academia, research institutions, innovation incubators, and consultancies came together to assess the current state of mHealth activities. In doing so, they developed a common vision and created short term action plans to support the creation of a national mHealth strategy.

The Challenge

The development of mHealth solutions has greatly surpassed the creation of accompanying national strategies which can promote the effective deployment of these applications. Without a coordinated strategic planning effort from national leadership, mHealth is unlikely to reach its true potential. Instead, mHealth applications fall short of being universally available and readily scalable. Specifically, some countries are challenged to harness the potential embodied by mHealth solutions because of the following operational factors:

  • Lack of interoperability standards and policies results in various solutions available in the marketplace being unable to share data. The overall ability to aggregate data for analysis is thus stymied.
  • Undeveloped security standards and regulations means that the security of medical data hosted in mHealth solutions is uncertain.
  • Coordination vacuum opens the door to duplicative solutions which are likely to ignore economies of scale that could drive down costs.
  • Poor communication and training leaves users, particularly health providers, with large knowledge gaps and an unclear understanding of the potential for mHealth.
  • Absence of private sector incentives and targeted investments limits the expansion of mHealth infrastructure and institutional capacity to scale effective solutions.

How We Helped

In early 2011, the MoHSW, already known as a leader in mHealth, sought assistance from Deloitte to facilitate a collaborative process that would underpin the development of a national mHealth strategy. A Tanzania National mHealth Strategy Workshop convened by the MoHSW and designed by Deloitte brought important stakeholders together in a highly interactive way. Launched with an educational session, Deloitte facilitated a process through which global and local mHealth stakeholders shared their experiences about the mHealth landscape. The attending stakeholders, many of whom had not met before but were working simultaneously on mHealth initiatives, had varying levels of knowledge regarding the larger mHealth landscape. Deloitte's innovative facilitation technique, known as graphic facilitation, successfully prompted participants to shift away from a passive role as `students' and take active ownership of the process for producing valuable documents relevant to establishing a national mHealth strategy.

Solution

The more than sixty participants at the mHealth Strategy Workshop provided indispensable initial inputs to propel forward the development of the Tanzanian national mHealth strategy. Presently, the MoHSW, with support from Deloitte and the local mHealth Community of Practice, is continuing to lead the strategy development. To circumvent the possibility that action might decelerate after the strategy workshop, the various teams formed during the workshop are executing short-term plans on topics such as interoperability, communication, and scaling.

As used in this document, “Deloitte” means Deloitte Consulting LLP, which provides strategy, operations, technology, and human capital consulting services, Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLP, which provides financial advisory services, and Deloitte & Touche LLP which provides governance and risk oversight and reporting advisory services. These entities are separate subsidiaries of Deloitte LLP. Please see www.deloitte.com/us/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

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