mHealth ‘Not Yet Living Up To Its Potential’ To Transform Health Care Systems

“mHealth can be defined as medical and public health practices supported by mobile technologies, such as mobile phones, patient monitoring devices, tablets, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and other wireless devices,” Patricia Mechael, executive director of the mHealth Alliance, and Sarah Struble, a program associate at the mHealth Alliance, write in an Al Jazeera opinion piece. “Patients, providers, health administrators, and public health advocates can all use mHealth to strengthen health systems by improving health services and expanding their reach,” they continue, adding, “There are several opportunities for mHealth to transform health care systems, particularly in developing countries, where public health information and access to health services are severely limited by the lack of facilities, trained personnel, and supplies.”

Mechael and Struble provide statics on mobile technology use in developing countries; discuss “a wide and growing range of innovative applications” — such as education and awareness through text messaging, diagnostic and treatment support, and sending and receiving data on disease incidence and public health emergencies; highlight ongoing research on the application of mHealth; and examine the challenges of advancing the field, such as a “lack of rigorous evidence, limited technological integration and interoperability, limited sources of sustained financing, policy gaps and lack of capacity among those who could benefit most from using mHealth.” They conclude, “We believe that mHealth has tremendous potential to improve health outcomes in developing countries. But, despite a global surge in programs and initiatives, it is not yet living up to its potential” (3/20).