There’s an App for That (Part Deux)

by Amy Myers

In my original post on mHealth, we saw how mobile health apps in particular tap into the tech-savvy Millennial Generation.

As for our generation’s service-minded side, the mHealth industry is on the forefront of utilizing mobile technology to provide much-needed services in undeveloped countries by managing disease, population health, and educating citizens on preventing illness. PricewaterhouseCooper’s recently released a study – discussed in this mHIMSS article – revealed that consumers (and specifically developing countries) are driving the growth of the mHealth market, [CS1] and physicians are the ones that are lagging behind in adopting the new technology.

So what exactly are mobile health apps being used for in developing nations?  Well it is really quite extraordinary.  The best resource I have found is a report released by the World Health Organization in 2011.  Technology changes so rapidly that this might already be dated, but it provides a stellar overview of what mHealth is, what it means globally, and provides details and results of mHealth work being done all over the world.  The report, mHealth:  New Horizons for Health Through Mobile Technologies is part of the WHO Global Observatory for eHealth Series and can be found here. We don’t have space to explore the full potential mHealth has to impact global population health, but here’s a Cliff’s Notes version:

Bangladesh:  Health Awareness SMS Campaigns

In a case study from Bangladesh, the report discusses an SMS text messaging campaign to raise health awareness among expectant mothers by providing information about their pregnancy, when to seek prenatal care, and other tips appropriate for their specific gestational stage.  This nation also utilized SMS campaigns to launch a nationwide immunization push, encouraging parents to bring their children in for vaccinations.

Ghana:  Improving Doctor Communication

In Ghana, New York University supported a mobile telephone company and other partners in creating the Mobile Doctors Network (MDNet) providing free mobile-to-mobile voice and text messaging capabilities between the mere 2,000 physicians that service this country’s population of nearly 24 million.  Using this form of communication in the rural areas of Ghana enables physicians to make referrals or discuss patients with other physicians easily and effectively.

Cambodia:  Disease Outbreak Surveillance

A SARS outbreak in 2003 made it clear that the nation of Cambodia was not prepared to quickly respond to dangerous outbreaks.  The nation’s leaders worked with WHO to develop Cam eWarn, a system which uses specific indicators to more quickly collect and interpret data to determine the extent and severity of disease outbreaks.  Software downloaded on to mobile phones in each area is used to compile data from hospitals, public health workers and other community sources and monitor the national trends.

This is just a snapshot, but it’s evident that mHealth is changing the way health is monitored, protected and improved in countries across the globe.  The use of mHealth may impact international population health exponentially.  Services, education, and tools that many countries have never had the resources to access are now at their fingertips – quite literally.

I believe it’s the passion, ingenuity, and foresight of our Millennial Generation that will provide the spark for ongoing innovation in this field. So take a break from Draw Something, calm your Angry Birds, and consider what your smartphone could really do.

Amy earned her MHA from the University of Missouri and works in healthcare market analysis and strategic planning.
Follow her on Twitter @amyloumyers.


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