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Lessons learned through piloting a community-based SMS referral system for common mental health disorders used by female community health volunteers in rural Nepal

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Anvita Bhardwaj, Anvita Bhardwaj, Prasansa Subba, Prasansa Subba, Sauharda Rai, Sauharda Rai, Sauharda Rai, Chaya Bhat, Renasha Ghimire, Mark J.D. Jordans, Eric Green, Lavanya Vasudevan, Lavanya Vasudevan, Brandon A. Kohrt, Brandon A. Kohrt

Original languageEnglish
Article number309
JournalBMC Research Notes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020

King's Authors


Objective: The Community Informant Detection Tool (CIDT) is a paper-based proactive case detection strategy with evidence for improving help-seeking behavior for mental healthcare. Key implementation barriers for the paper-based CIDT include delayed reporting of cases and lack of active follow up. We used mobile phones and structured text messages to improve timeliness of case reporting, encouraging follow up, and case record keeping. 36 female community health volunteers piloted this mobile phone CIDT (mCIDT) for three months in 2017 in rural Nepal. Results: Only 8 cases were identified by health volunteers using mCIDT, and only two of these cases engaged with health services post-referral. Accuracy with the mCIDT was considerably lower than paper-based CIDT, especially among older health volunteers, those with lower education, and those having difficulties sending text messages. Qualitative findings revealed implementation challenges including cases not following through on referrals due to perceived lack of staff at health facilities, assumptions among health volunteers that all earthquake-related mental health needs had been met, and lack of financial incentives for use of mCIDT. Based on study findings, we provide 5 recommendations - in particular attitudinal and system preparedness changes - to effectively introduce new mental healthcare technology in low resource health systems.

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