BACKGROUND: The wide availability and relative simplicity of mobile phones make them a promising instrument for delivering a variety of health-related interventions. Mobile health (mHealth) interventions have been tested in a variety of health delivery areas, but research has been restricted to pilot and small studies with limited generalizability. The aim of this review was to explore the current evidence on the use of mHealth for maternal health interventions in low- and low middle-income countries.
METHODS: Peer-reviewed papers were identified from Medline/PubMed, Web of Science, and Cochrane Library via a combination of search terms. Quantitative or mixed-methods papers published in the English language between January 2000 and July 2015 were included.
RESULTS: Three hundred and seventy papers were found in the literature search. We assessed the full text of 57 studies, and included 19 in the review. Study designs included were 5 randomized controlled trials, 9 before and after comparisons, 1 study with endline assessment only, 3 postintervention assessments, and 1 cohort study. Quality assessment elucidated 9 low-quality, 5 moderate, and 5 high studies. Five studies supported the use of mobile phones for data collection, 3 for appointment reminders, and 4 for both appointment reminders and health promotion. Six studies supported the use of mHealth for provider-to-provider communication and 1 for clinical management.
CONCLUSIONS: Studies demonstrated promise for the use of mHealth in maternal health; however, much of the evidence came from low- and moderate-quality studies. Pilot and small programs require more rigorous testing before allocating resources to scaling up this technology.