Smart technology for smart family planning in Ethiopia

Article Date

06 November 2014

Article Author

Erin Kelly

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

Over the past decade, Ethiopia has made great strides in meeting the family planning needs of its people, by increasing access to and use of contraceptives. From 2000 to 2011, married women’s modern contraceptive use increased from 6% to 27%. Building on this impressive success, the government of Ethiopia has made it a priority to expand family planning access even further with the goal of reaching modern contraceptive use by 66% of married women by 2015. A new effort by ICRW and the Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia (FGAE) tapping into the power of the latest information technology may help reach that objective.

The focus on increasing contraceptive use is a big step in the right direction for Ethiopia in meeting the family planning needs of women and couples, but it is the quality of family planning services that ultimately influences if and how clients make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and whether or not they sustain a lifetime of positive sexual and reproductive health behaviors.

Recognizing the importance of client’s perspectives on the quality of care they receive, improvement of health services requires getting routine client feedback. Health services in Ethiopia have instituted different ways to measure clients’ experience or satisfaction, including conducting exit interviews and encouraging clients to leave suggestions or complaints in comment boxes. While this has provided health providers with some information for quality improvement, these methods can fall short in ensuring comprehensive feedback for health staff.

Self-administered, written surveys mean that clients with limited time may choose not to give their feedback. And it means that those who are illiterate are unable to participate at all. Additionally, health staff, whose resources are stretched thin, may not have the time to go through and act on feedback provided, leaving a gap between client satisfaction and improvements to services.

To address this need, ICRW and FGAE are teaming up to test the effectiveness of new technology – such as tablets or similar electronic tools –to improve client feedback, and importantly, the way in which health providers respond to that feedback.

The pilot project, which will be implemented in four of FGAE’s 56 nationwide family planning clinics, will employ a more expansive and cost-effective system that will record client feedback through an interactive interface, allow illiterate patients to participate, and provide clinic staff with on-going real time data and information that will help them improve the quality of services and ensure client-centered care. Information obtained from the four pilot sites will then help to inform how the new technology is rolled out to FGAE’s 52 additional health facilities throughout Ethiopia.

“We are excited to kick off this new project, which will allow ICRW and our partners at FGAE to test an innovative way of  helping Ethiopia’s women and couples access and continue to use improved family planning services,” says project director, Diana Santillán. “Our hope is that the new technology will amplify the voices of family planning clients and allow their voices to be heard by health providers, improving client-centered sexual and reproductive health services for decades to come.”