Background: The recent proliferation of digital health technology in low- and middle-income countries has made it possible for community health workers (CHWs) to use mobile health (mHealth) to perform tasks such as data collection and training. Although most studies focus on the prospect of digital apps to motivate and connect CHW, only a few have captured end-user experiences with mobile-based apps. We examined the experience of frontline health workers with a move towards digitalized real-time data to record maternal and childcare services in remote areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Objective: Our study aimed to explore CHW perceptions on the operability of the mHealth app in a community setting, usefulness of the app in the delivery of assigned maternal and childcare functions, and the task-technology fit with monitoring information systems. Methods: The Hayat app, designed to digitalize and facilitate electronic record keeping, was evaluated to be embedded into mainstream health systems. The app had 2 components: smartphone app for data entry and web dashboard for visualization of the maternal, newborn, and child health reports. Using a qualitative exploratory study design, we conducted a total of 8 focus group discussions with purposively selected lady health workers (LHWs) and CHWs in 3 districts of Pakistan and 3 hamlets of Afghanistan, respectively. Focus group discussions were conducted in the local language, audio recorded, and converted into expanded notes for thematic analysis. Results: Although a majority of LHWs used the app with ease, some initially faced difficulties in operating it and requested a longer duration of training. Contrary to LHWs, the CHWs were able to use the app without difficulty, as they were using it only to register clients. Overall, use of the mHealth app in both countries resulted in a positive impact on health education sessions, easier communication with parents or clients, tracking of routine immunization defaulters and follow-ups, improved data validity, easily accessible vaccination schedules, and faster registration. In addition to building up their image in the community and personal development, the improved reporting and monitoring mechanisms also set the stage for the LHWs to get recognized for their hard work. CHWs in Afghanistan also reported the app provided immediate access to information when requested by their supervisor. Although the Hayat app eliminates the need to carry multiple registers and helps in recalling client information at the touch of a button, technical issues around connectivity and data inputting tabs were highlighted by the participants. Conclusions: The digitization of records not only provided CHWs support in their daily routine but also strengthened monitoring mechanisms and improved motivation. We recommend conducting end user experience studies before embedding apps into mainstream health systems as high acceptability does not always result in high uptake of digital technology.
- Community health workers
- Task-technology fit