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Mobile health (mHealth) is increasingly being seen as a promising solution to the multiple health system challenges that Vietnam faces, including inadequate health service provision. Nevertheless, there is limited published information describing the sustainability of such mHealth solutions in the Vietnamese context. This study reviewed the available projects and interventions to evaluate factors challenging sustainability of mHealth initiatives in Vietnam.
A multimodal scoping study was designed to collect data from various sources: published literature, government reports, unpublished literature, conference presentations, online documents, and key informant interviews. Relevant mHealth initiatives were identified and selected through electronic searches and informal discussions with key stakeholders. Collected data was charted and classified by thematic analysis. Challenges to the sustainability of mHealth initiatives were discussed in the context of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT).
Twenty mHealth initiatives with relevant information and available data were collected, covering the period from 2010 to 2017. Fifteen (75 percent) were primarily funded by external donors, one (5 percent) was government supported, and four (20 percent) were self-funded projects. Five (25 percent) were on-going, and fifteen (75 percent) were completed at the time of data collection. Four (20 percent) out of the completed initiatives were continuing to use materials, infrastructure, and technology to engage end-users.
The high percentage of external funding, complicated governmental bureaucracy and lack of government commitment, electronic medical record standardization, and legislation relating to mHealth are amongst the largest challenges to mHealth sustainability in Vietnam. In addition, findings demonstrate it is crucial for project managers of mHealth initiatives to build strong relationships with the Vietnam government and advocate for their mHealth initiatives in order to promote sustainability.
According to the Vietnamese Cardiovascular Association, one-fifth of Vietnam's population is suffering from cardiovascular disease (CVD) – now the leading cause of death in the country that accounts for about one-third of total deaths every year. Yet affordable and convenient solutions to monitor and detect CVDs remain limited and not available nation-wide. This study aimed to investigate the usability of a portable dry-electrode electrocardiography (ECG) device, paired with a mobile phone, in supporting ECG service delivery in Vietnam.
An evaluation study was designed to combine a portable dry-electrode ECG device to measure and a mobile phone to receive and record ECG signals. Healthy young college students were invited to participate in the study. Three rounds of ECG measurement were administered for each of the participants. Usability of the device was assessed through the reliability of the measures and feasibility of use during intervention. Standard error of measurement (SEM) and intra-class correlation coefficient (ICC) estimations were used for reliability, while structured questionnaire administered before and after measures was used for feasibility assessments.
A total of 234 participants enrolled in the study. No major difference was found in SEMs between trials one and two (4.96 percent, 90% CI: 4.61 − 5.37) and two and three (4.14 percent, 90% CI: 3.85 − 4.48). A slight improvement was observed in ICC of trials two and three (0.95, 90% CI 0.94 − 0.96) in comparison to one of trials one and two (0.94, 90% CI: 0.92 − 0.95). The SEM and average ICC of all trials were 3.41 (90% CI: 3.17 − 3.69) and 0.96 (90% CI: 0.95 − 0.96) respectively. Forty-five percent of participants thought the device would be suitable for their parents while 69 percent thought the device would benefit their grandparents the most.
High consistency of measures demonstrated that the device is reliable to provide ECG service delivery. The study also showed great potential of device usage in primary health care of Vietnam.
Along with the exponential growth of technology, the use of mobile devices in health, or mHealth, has been quickly becoming a viable practice to strengthen health systems, especially in low-resource settings. Nevertheless, the majority of mHealth interventions are pilot efforts which mostly lack robust design and evidence about the use of mHealth in public health. This study assessed the use of a bi-directional Short Message Service (SMS) in disease surveillance in Vietnam and aimed to bring evidence in improving engagement of health staff as well as the quality of reporting.
Eighty health staff from fourty communes of Hoa Binh and Hung Yen provinces were trained and participated in two 6-month pilots: one with one-way, and one with a bi-directional SMS system for assisting in error screening, and reminder and feedback provision to report two diseases: influenza and diarrhea using cell phones. After each examination and checking-in onto the paper logbook, participants reported the case by texting an SMS to a designated number and made notes of successfully reported cases. A central data repository server was set up to collect SMS reports, and aggregate reported patient data. Engagement of health staff and quality of the reporting work were assessed by the evaluation of the qualitative questionnaires, and the comparison of the texted SMS reports to the patient logbooks.
With the use of a two-way versus one-way SMS system, participants were 4.6 times more likely (95 percent Confidence Interval, CI 3.93-5.44, p< .001) to send correctly formatted text reports, and 3.4 times more likely (95 percent CI 2.72-4.33, p< .001) to have precise information in their texted messages. Results also revealed that while their position, age, or gender of participants did not statistically influence the results, ethnicity and management roles did.
The study showed that the use of a bi-directional SMS-based reporting system both significantly improved participants engagement in the reporting protocol, and greatly enhanced their reporting quality. The study demonstrated that robust evidence of a practical utilization of SMS in a disease reporting system to replace the traditional paper-based one has great potential for a scale-up and national-wide implementation.
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