WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health
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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 51-57

Large-scale mHealth professional support for health workers in rural Maharashtra, India

Piramal Swasthya Management and Research Institute, Hyderabad, India

Correspondence Address:
Shailendra Kumar B Hegde
Piramal Swasthya Management and Research Institute, Hyderabad
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DOI: 10.4103/2224-3151.228428

PMID: 29582850

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Expanding mobile telephony in India has prompted interest in the potential of mobile-telephone health (mHealth) in linking health workers in rural areas with specialist medical advice and other professional services. In 2012, a toll-free helpline offering specialist medical advice to community-based health workers throughout Maharashtra was launched. Calls are handled via a 24 h centre in Pune, staffed by health advisory officers and medical specialists. Health advisory officers handle general queries, which include medical advice via validated algorithms; blood on-call services; grievance issues; and mental health support – the latter calls are transferred to a qualified counsellor. Calls requiring more specialist advice are transferred to the appropriate medical specialist. This paper describes the experience of the first 4 years of this helpline, in terms of the services used, callers, nature of calls, types of queries serviced and lessons learnt. In the first 4 years of the helpline, 669 265 calls were serviced. Of these calls, 453 373 (67.74%) needed medical advice and were handled by health advisory officers. Specialist services were required to address 199 226 (29.77%) calls. Blood-bank-related services accounted for 7919 (1.18%) calls, while 2462 (0.37%) were grievance calls. Counselling for mental health issues accounted for 6285 (0.94%) calls. The large-scale mHealth professional support provided by this helpline in Maharashtra has reached many health workers serving rural communities. Future work is required to explore ways to expand the reach of the helpline further and to measure its effectiveness in improving health outcomes.

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