"Even if you know everything you can forget": health worker perceptions of mobile phone text-messaging to improve malaria case-management in Kenya
This paper presents the results of a qualitative study to investigate the perceptions and experiences of health workers involved in a a cluster-randomized controlled trial of a novel intervention to improve health worker malaria case-management in 107 government health facilities in Kenya. The intervention involved sending text-messages about paediatric outpatient malaria case-management accompanied by "motivating" quotes to health workers' mobile phones. Ten malaria messages were developed reflecting recommendations from the Kenyan national guidelines. Two messages were delivered per day for 5 working days and the process was repeated for 26 weeks (May to October 2009). The accompanying quotes were unique to each message. The intervention was delivered to 119 health workers and there were significant improvements in correct artemether-lumefantrine (AL) management both immediately after the intervention (November 2009) and 6 months later (May 2010). In-depth interviews with 24 health workers were undertaken to investigate the possible drivers of this change. The results suggest high acceptance of all components of the intervention, with the active delivery of information in an on the job setting, the ready availability of new and stored text messages and the perception of being kept 'up to date' as important factors influencing practice. Applying the construct of stages of change we infer that in this intervention the SMS messages were operating primarily at the action and maintenance stages of behaviour change achieving their effect by creating an enabling environment and providing a prompt to action for the implementation of case management practices that had already been accepted as the clinical norm by the health workers. Future trials testing the effectiveness of SMS reminders in creating an enabling environment for the establishment of new norms in clinical practice as well as in providing a prompt to action for the implementation of the new case-management guidelines are justified.