Exploring Mobile Data Collection and Maternal Health in Hyderabad

Dateline: March 2012
Location: Hyderabad, India
by Kate Krontiris and Lina Sayed

Outreach workers use a paper-based system; LifeSpring wonders if they should move to digital

Kate Krontiris is a graduate student of public policy and business at the Harvard Kennedy School and the MIT Sloan School of Management.  Lina Sayed is a second-year MBA student at the MIT Sloan School of Management.  They are students of Global Health Delivery, travelling to Hyderabad, India for a project on maternal and child health.

There are 51 babies born each minute in India.  Home to 1.2 billion people, the country is the second largest (by population) in the world.  As you can imagine, its maternal and child health needs are tremendous — and only growing.

Zoom in a bit to Hyderabad, a large city located in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.  Known as India’s tech and bio-pharmaceutical center, the city exemplifies what has driven India’s economic success over the past few decades.  Microsoft’s second largest research and development facility outside the US is located here, for example.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, however, the government of India currently only spends about 1% of its GDP on healthcare – an underinvestment that has led to a public hospital ecosystem lacking basic medicine, equipment, and capacity.  The Indian government has recently announced its intention to more than double that budget allocation; skeptics note that progress toward that goal is not as aggressive as necessary.

This is where LifeSpring Hospitals come in.  A chain of private, non-profit maternal hospitals, LifeSpring offers high-quality, reasonably priced pre-natal and birthing services to low-income moms-to-be. Their community health workers maintain a serious outreach schedule, making regular visits to customers’ homes to inform pregnant mothers about the services available to them and to encourage them to make healthcare choices that will promote a healthy birth.  Right now, these workers keep track of their visits using a paper-based list, since they want to maintain information about who they have visited, what their health conditions are, and whether they actually make it into a LifeSpring facility.

In a city alternately called “Cyberbad,” the question is: might there be a more efficient and helpful way of tracking this information, perhaps using basic mobile phone technology?

This is the question that LifeSpring has posed to our team.  We make no claim to know the answer, but we are equipped with some process tools to help surface key decision points.  In our first few days in Hyderabad, we will be walking alongside the outreach workers as they make their visits, understanding what their needs are and observing their use of technology.  We look forward to interviewing a variety of other stakeholders in this mobile health ecosystem: expectant moms, hospital IT staff, administrative management, and even product and program managers at large technology multinationals.

Neither of us has been to Hyderabad, so we are excited to explore its many facets and to meet our collaborators at LifeSpring Hospitals.  Stay tuned for more updates!

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