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The state of mHealth development and use by palliative care services in sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review of the literature


Background Current coverage of palliative care services in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) remains woefully inadequate, but harnessing mHealth could be one approach to facilitate greater service coverage and engagement with patients with life-limiting progressive disease.

Aims A systematic literature review to identify the development and use of mHealth in palliative care services in SSA.

Methods 13 electronic databases from 1990 to 2015 were searched alongside the manual searching of journals and citation searching of included article reference lists. Articles were assessed against inclusion and exclusion criteria and study details extracted and tabulated by two researchers. Studies were plotted against a modified WHO mHealth and ICT framework to classify how they are targeting health system strengthening.

Results Of the 1110 articles identified, 5 met the inclusion criteria, describing mHealth use in Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya and Malawi. Descriptive analysis has shown that existing mHealth interventions for palliative care services in SSA are limited in number and are being developed for use at the palliative treatment, guidance and coordination stage of care provision. Levels of detail about the development and structure of interventions are low.

Conclusions mHealth interventions for palliative care in SSA are limited. This is an opportune time to explore how evidence-based mHealth interventions could form part of the evolving palliative care services in the region.

  • palliative care
  • sub-Saharan Africa
  • mobile phone
  • mHealth

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