A job aid is typically a one- or two-page instruction sheet or poster that walks the user through a series of steps to perform certain tasks. Job aids range from covering simple step-wise processes to more complex decision-making or conducting calculations. In the public health context in developing countries and other low-resource settings, job aids are designed to help health practitioners who often just one brief training session on a particular procedure. In these cases, job aids are particularly important in guiding workers through procedures they rarely perform or that are complex to conduct.
For years, paper-based job aids have been widely used, and in many situations they serve their purpose well: they provide a comprehensive overview of the procedure, clearly worded instructions, and visual depictions to guide a user through a procedure. However, traditional paper-based job aids have limitations: they can get lost; they might be on a poster in a room separate from a treatment room; they make it difficult for multiple people in multiple locations to use them; they are time-intensive to update when best practices change. Finally, the procedure might be complex and require calculations or decision-making that are difficult to follow on paper, particularly when a health worker is juggling other tasks and interacting with one or more patients.
A smartphone-based job aid application can offer benefits that improve upon paper-based job aids. An app can help users with calculations and decision-making. Animated images can more fully illustrate the procedure. Job aid apps could also automatically be updated with new information when the user connects to the internet. In addition, smart phones are portable and have the capacity to store numerous job aids–serving as an instructional manual of sorts that can be easily accessed with a click or swipe.