The Vinyasa Tool for mHealth Solutions: Supporting Human-Centered Design in Nascent Digital Health Ecosystems


Verghese Thomas Bharat Kalidindi Abijeet Waghmare Tony Raj Satchit Balsari


Background: mHealth (mobile health) systems have been deployed widely in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) for health system strengthening, requiring considerable resource allocation. However, most solutions have not achieved scale or sustainability. Poor usability and failure to address perceived needs are among the principal reasons mHealth systems fail to achieve acceptance and adoption by health care workers. A human-centered design approach to improving mHealth system use requires an exploration of users’ perceptions of mHealth systems, including the environmental, user-related, and technological aspects of a system. At present, there is a dearth of contextually intelligent tools available to mHealth developers that can guide such exploration before full-scale development and deployment. Objective: To develop a tool to aid optimization of mHealth solutions in LMICs to facilitate human-centered design and, consequently, successful adoption. Methods: We collated findings and themes from key qualitative studies on mHealth deployment in LMICs. We then used the Informatics Stack framework by Lehmann to label, sort, and collate findings and themes into a list of questions that explore the environment, users, artifacts, information governance, and interoperability of mHealth systems deployed in LMICs. Results: We developed the Vinyasa Tool to aid qualitative research about the need and usability of mHealth solutions in LMICs. The tool is a guide for focus group discussions and key informant interviews with community-based health care workers and primary care medical personnel who use or are expected to use proposed mHealth solutions. The tool consists of 71 questions organized in 11 sections that unpack and explore multiple aspects of mHealth systems from the perspectives of their users. These include the wider world and organization in which an mHealth solution is deployed; the roles, functions, workflow, and adoption behavior of a system’s users; the security, privacy, and interoperability afforded by a system; and the artifacts of an information system—the data, information, knowledge, algorithms, and technology that constitute the system. The tool can be deployed in whole or in part, depending on the context of the study. Conclusions: The Vinyasa Tool is the first such comprehensive qualitative research instrument incorporating questions contextualized to the LMIC setting. We expect it to find wide application among mHealth developers, health system administrators, and researchers developing and deploying mHealth tools for use by patients, providers, and administrators. The tool is expected to guide users toward human-centered design with the goal of improving relevance, usability, and, therefore, adoption.

JMIR Formative Research