Through an extensive goal-setting process with our partners at iKure, the University of Michigan graduate student team sought to build a mobile technology solution that could support the variety of tasks that health workers perform in their communities, despite their remoteness. To better understand how to create this tool, our project design process focused on the following questions:
- What is the current workflow of health workers in the field?
- What is the health workers’ current understanding of technology, and what value do they see in using technology for their fieldwork?
- What level of buy-in do health workers have in their communities, and how can technology best support that relationship?
Through three field visits, interviews and usability testing with CHWs and ASHA workers around West Bengal, our team learned a great deal about the existing responsibilities health workers have, and what features our mobile application–the KOL-Health Application– needed to have to support these activities. A description of these findings can be found in our Github repository, which has been shared with our partners at iKure.
Although our team gained a greater understanding of mobile technologies and their uses in community health by building the KOL-Health App, we discovered the most valuable aspect of our GIEP project was communicating the value of user research and public health practice to a technology company that was unfamiliar with both fields.
In our final presentations to iKure and the other GIEP fellows, we focused more on the stories of the health workers in West Bengal, and the very real environmental and social challenges they face in delivering healthcare to rural communities. We framed our talking points around the statement, “An app cannot build a bridge,” to emphasize the limitations of technology in addressing these everyday challenges. Most importantly, we tried to convey the necessity of first putting a face to the users of the technology, before trying to build a product that may not get adopted.
iKure expects to implement the KOL-Health App, which has patient registration, data collection and reporting features, as soon as possible. However, after conducting only a few one-day field visits, it is clear more testing and interviews need to be done with a larger group of West Bengal health workers.
By gathering a larger sample size and more health worker input about this technology, iKure can build a tool that is better tailored to health workers’ environments and literacy levels, but does not undermine the trust they have with their communities. The last six months with iKure are only the beginning to a long process of learning, designing and interacting with health workers.