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A framework for community ownership of a text messaging programme to improve adherence to antiretroviral therapy and client-provider communication: a mixed methods study

Lawrence Mbuagbaw, Renee-Cecile Bonono-Momnougui, Lehana Thabane, Charles Kouanfack, Marek Smieja, Pierre Ongolo-Zogo
BMC Health Services Research 2014, 14: 441
25258249

BACKGROUND: Mobile phone text messaging has been shown to improve adherence to antiretroviral therapy and to improve communication between patients and health care workers. It is unclear which strategies are most appropriate for scaling up text messaging programmes. We sought to investigate acceptability and readiness for ownership (community members designing, sending and receiving text messages) of a text message programme among a community of clients living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Yaoundé, Cameroon and to develop a framework for implementation.

METHODS: We used the mixed-methods sequential exploratory design. In the qualitative strand we conducted 7 focus group discussions (57 participants) to elicit themes related to acceptability and readiness. In the quantitative strand we explored the generalizability of these themes in a survey of 420 clients. Qualitative and quantitative data were merged to generate meta-inferences.

RESULTS: Both qualitative and quantitative strands showed high levels of acceptability and readiness despite low rates of participation in other community-led projects. In the qualitative strand, compared to the quantitative strand, more potential service users were willing to pay for a text messaging service, preferred participation of health personnel in managing the project and preferred that the project be based in the hospital rather than in the community. Some of the limitations identified to implementing a community-owned project were lack of management skills in the community, financial, technical and literacy challenges. Participants who were willing to pay were more likely to find the project acceptable and expressed positive feelings about community readiness to own a text messaging project.

CONCLUSION: Community ownership of a text messaging programme is acceptable to the community of clients at the Yaoundé Central Hospital. Our framework for implementation includes components for community members who take on roles as services users (demonstrating clear benefits, allowing a trial period and ensuring high levels of confidentiality) or service providers (training in project management and securing sustainable funding). Such a project can be evaluated using participation rate, clinical outcomes, satisfaction with the service, cost and feedback from users.

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