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The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Liberia has included mHero as an official strategy in its new Investment Plan for Building a Resilient Health System, the nation’s blueprint for moving from an emergency response to the Ebola crisis to recovering and rebuilding its health system.
mHero is an integrated health worker communication and coordination system. This SMS-based mHealth platform extends and enhances existing national health information systems to get critical information to health workers throughout a country in real time via their mobile phones.
IntraHealth International and UNICEF collaborated to develop mHero in the summer of 2014 to help countries provide a trusted channel of information and support for frontline health workers in Ebola-affected communities.
Ebola was the impetus for mHero, but the platform can be used for all types of information and communication needs within the health system. The ability of health workers to have two-way, instant communication with health officials can help bring outbreaks under control more quickly, protect health workers and their communities, share health and administrative information with health workers dispersed throughout the country, and strengthen ongoing communication among the different levels of the health system.
When cases of Ebola emerged in Liberia for the first time in March 2014, health officials had no way to reach most health workers in real time. Since then, Liberia has had more than 10,000 cases of Ebola and 4,486 deaths, including 188 health workers.
Prior to the outbreak, Liberia had made investments in a health information system (DHIS2) and had begun to implement a health workforce information system using iHRIS—open source software originally developed by IntraHealth. mHero connects these two systems with UNICEF’s RapidPro platform to allow officials to send and receive text messages via health workers’ mobile phones.
IntraHealth’s approach to implementing mHero has included working side-by-side with Liberia’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to ensure the technology meets existing and anticipated needs and that a team of ministry officials leads the implementation. This approach allows the ministry to drive the process for full integration of mHero into national policies and governance, workplans, and the health information system framework, including the health sector’s Investment Plan for Building a Resilient Health System and its accompanying budget.
mHero is included as part of the ministry’s approach to establish “adequate systems for sector information dissemination,” under the plan’s investment area: comprehensive information, research, and communication management. The plan aims to restore not only progress made on the health system prior to the Ebola crisis, but also to accelerate progress toward universal health coverage.
mHero will be implemented in Guinea and Sierra Leone in addition to Liberia, and initial stages for its development and deployment are currently taking place.