Pocket-Sized Healthcare

by Chris Purdy, PSI

Five billion people across the world have a phone in their pocket.

And in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, over half of the population is expected to own a phone by 2025. Consumers use their phones to connect to everything, whether it’s their families, friends, bank accounts or simply their next ride. So why not use this connection for healthcare?

Putting healthcare in the palm of the client’s hand, PSI invests in technology that goes beyond traditional behavior change approaches to reach consumers. Our new initiative, called Connecting with Sara, named for the archetype of our target audience, aims to leverage technology to better engage and learn from users throughout their lives as health care consumers.

Connecting with Sara is a platform to track and engage with clients through their mobile phones. Using phone calls, text messages and social media, PSI can use Connecting with Sara to link her to care, provide her with relevant health information, and follow her through the continuum of care. Under Connecting with Sara, PSI has created a new mobile app to enable community health workers to better follow-up with consumers and refer them to health services. The app is currently being used in Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

The Connecting with Sara app is just the beginning. PSI is also working on mobile client-satisfaction surveys, chat bots to support online counselors, and apps that allow clients to self-refer themselves to services, rather than having to wait to meet with a community health worker.

Mobile technology allows clients to participate more intimately in their own healthcare, putting care and control directly in consumers’ hands.


First, a Community Health Worker (CHW) meets with a client, creates a unique identifier code to protect her identity and asks permission to contact her about health services in the future. The CHW then sends an electronic voucher to the client’s phone via SMS or creates a paper voucher for those that don’t have a mobile device.







After issuing a voucher, the CHW later reviews the list of clients with whom to follow-up. The CHW can call or text clients reminders about upcoming appointments.








The client takes her voucher to a provider, where it is redeemed electronically and then displayed in the CHW’s app as a completed referral. CHWs check their performance in the app, which their manager can also follow from the local PSI office using DHIS2, PSI’s health management information system.







Information stored in the app is collected, managed and analyzed in DHIS2.









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