You may use this brief for informational, non-commercial purposes with credit attribution: The Global Health Delivery Project, GHDonline.org, Jun 28, 2010. Please see our Terms of Use for more information.

Laptops for Community Health Workers

Added on 28 Jun 2010
Last updated on 14 Jun 2011

Authors: Written by Allen Ho; Reviewed by Sophie Beauvais and Joaquin Blaya, Ph.D.

Started by a community member working in Nicaragua to implement a community-based health care model where a health team consisting of a physician, a nurse and an auxiliary nurse are in charge of a population of 2000 people, this discussion centers on the pros and cons of using low cost laptops for Community Health Workers (CHWs).

Key Points

  • Be realistic about potential uses of laptops by CHWs with a clear understanding of conditions on the ground.
  • Reliable sources of electricity and communications networks are pre-requirements for providing laptops to CHWs if the objective is to improve connectivity between remote communities and home base programs.
  • Enabling the larger community to benefit from these laptops, such as leveraging them into a source of revenue generation or for providing internet access, is a great way to increase local capacity and ensure buy-in.
  • Free and open source solutions as well as donation programs should be considered in a cost/benefit analysis prior to implementation.

Key References
Suggestions mostly addressed mobile systems rather than laptop-based systems for improving connectivity between CHWs and home base programs and members shared additional references:

  • Eee PCs in Uganda: experience piloting EeePC with some health workers in Uganda
  • One Laptop Per Child website
  • Paul Fontelo, MD, MPH, Fang Liu, MS, Kai Zhang, MS, Michael Ackerman, PhD, and Herman Tolentino, MD. The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) Computer for Health Clinics in Developing Countries. AMIA Annu Symp Proc. 2008; 2008: 192–196. (Open Access)
  • HIFA2015: Healthcare Information For All by 2015 listserv which explores Health IT and includes more than 2000 professionals -- health workers, librarians, publishers, technologists -- from 135 countries.
  • Frontline SMS enables users to send and receive text messages using mobile phones and consolidate messages onto a laptop. FrontlineSMS:Medic is being implemented at more than 30 sites in 20 countries. In just one site, the FrontlineSMS network has enabled the central hospital to respond to requests for remote patient care, track distant patients, inform CHWs of proper drug dosages and uses, receive patient updates, facilitate CHW-to-CHW communication and mobilization, connect HIV-positive patients to support groups and relay outreach HIV testing schedules.
  • AED-SATELLIFE has been using Information Technology (IT) with CHWs for decades including using low-cost mobile devices to collect public health data and disseminate clinical information to CHWs in remote areas with the GATHER software in Uganda and on three continents. Functionalities include: data collection and transmission to a central database, data aggregation from multiple sites and reporting. GUIDE is another system using mobile phones for information dissemination.
  • CommCare is an open source project built on the JavaROSA codebase that uses mobile phones to support CHWs. CHWs are able to view their current clients or households and walk them question-by-question through various activities such as registering new clients, conducting follow-up visits and gathering information on births and deaths. Medical decision support capabilities, methods to support feedback for supervision and process improvement are also available. Collected data is submitted to a central repository.

Enrich the GHDonline Knowledge Base: Please consider replying to this discussion with the following information

  • Your recommendations on systems not mentioned in this discussion and links to websites
  • Your feedback on usability of such solutions, including known problems

Download: 06_28_10_Laptops_for_CHWs.pdf (38.2 KB)