DHIS Mobile covers the wide area of mobile development related to DHIS2, with focus on a wide portfolio of solutions for utilizing mobile technology to expand the reach of the Health Information System. The clients can be deployed as a standalone mobile reporting system, or the clients can be used together with the web interface to support an integrated HIS system that reaches all levels of the health service, including community health workers and citizens.
Learn more about how to deploy DHIS2 as a mobile reporting tool by reading this use case from Zambia's Malaria Control Program.
Java mobile clients
There are two DHIS Java ME based applications for low-end Java phones, one supporting aggregate data entry and the second supporting name-based program tracking. These applications communicate with an online DHIS2 instance, downloading datasets, activity plans and program stages, and allow the health worker to enter data back into the online server. The main strength of these applications is that they work well even when the phone is "offline", which is when the phone has no data connection to the server. Data entered during offline-mode is stored and can be submitted at a later time. The Java clients are simple to use, run on cheap mobile phones and offer a fast way of rolling out data entry capability to a large number of staff.
The aggregate reporting Java client supports simple online or offline data entry and submission of forms using mobile data (GPRS) or SMS. This client has been deployed in different projects in India and Africa, and is the most common DHIS Mobile client in current use. The solution has been optimized for easy rollout and flexibility through several years of high-scale use. The data entry forms are downloaded to the phone the first time the client is started up, and are updated automatically if the form definition on the server is changed. Our general policy is to maintain backwards compatibility to older clients when you update the server version, avoiding having to update all clients every time you update the server. If you want to update your clients anyway, you can use the automatic over-the-air update feature built into the client and server.
The program tracking client supports the follow-up of a patient through a program such as a mother-child, TB or HIV program. Patients can be registered and enrolled using the mobile phone, and details for each visit can be entered and reviewed. With simple-to-use continuity of care features, this client complements the more advanced web based patient tracking features that are part of the DHIS2 package. The client enables access to patient data while the health worker is with the patient, or the ability to enter data after the visit has been.
The applications are setup to use the DHIS2 Demo by default. You may log in with username/password mobile/district. You can contact us to get a customized build with your server details as default.
To try the applications on a computer, one way is to download the Java ME SDK and run them in the emulator.
Both clients support many different mobile vendors, but we typically recommend using Nokia phones and rolling this client out in a controlled project where you know which phones are being used. Different phones may have varying firmware and Java implementations that increase the support and training requirements, so it is generally a good idea to concentrate on a few phone models of a known type.
Browser based mobile client
In contexts where mobile data coverage is good and health workers already have phones, using the mobile browser DHIS2 interface may be an important complement to other clients. Cheap, low end mobile phone support browser-based data entry through a simple mobile interface optimized for small screen sizes. You may also consider using a more advanced user interface customized for Android smart phones. The Android smart phone interface also supports offline data entry using HTML5.
The mobile browser interfaces are also great complements for users who ordinarily use the web based data entry, but for some reason need to enter data while on the move. Because the browser is available in many existing handsets and require little extra setup, we typically recommend including basic training in how to access the system using the mobile browser when training staff at any level. Despite the large handset support for browser-based solutions, many projects still prefer limiting the handset base to a well-tested and controlled group of phones, to limit the support and training costs. The costs for the phones is often only a very small part of the rollout of the system, and spending a bit more on phones may give many advantages to future enhancements and evolution of the service.
SMS based solutions
DHIS2 also supports a wealth of SMS-based functions. Because SMS is most widely available technology, these features can help you increase the scale of your information system. The SMS features of the system could be deployed as a standalone function, but is more commonly used together with the other mobile clients and the web based interface of the system, as a portfolio of technologies that caters for the specific user context. Some of the use cases that are supported through SMS include:
- A simple web based interface for sending SMS to individual or groups of health workers or patients.
- Automatic SMS sent to patients, for example to remind them of an upcoming or missed visit, or as part of a general education program related to a health program.
- Reporting data by sending an SMS to the system.
- Sending messages from SMS to users of the system, for example for support or feedback purposes.
- Registering and enrolling a patient into a health program by sending an SMS.
- Entering individual health data for a patient visit using SMS.
- Checking the status of a patient's followup using SMS.
The SMS functions of DHIS2 is used for a wide range of functions, including tracking mother and child health, HIV reporting, lab sample tracking, as well as education and coordination.