The Business Case for mHealth

Mobile health (mHealth) is the name used to describe medical services or health care that is provided through the use of mobile phones, mobile telecommunication devices, or using multimedia technologies. This model of providing health care has become very popular and effective in developing countries because of the large-scale penetration of mobile phones in these regions, whether to help starving children in Africa or expand prenatal care in South America. Estimates show that by the year 2012, mobile phones will be possessed by about half the population living in the remote regions around the globe. Mobile phones enable immediate and inexpensive communication with individuals living in these areas.

Now that mHealth programs have demonstrated what might be done, the next step is to make them self-sustaining. The most successful mHealth projects have moved away from depending on external consultants and have obtained technical self-sufficiency. A number of organizations depend on open source software to accomplish their missions. By utilizing open source software, programs can minimizes costs and increase the number of programmers working to achieve their goals. It also eradicates the requirement for consultants from outside and promotes innovation.

Saving Money through mHealth in Cape Town

One successful mHealth project that also reduced the cost of providing care used cell phones to improve treatment of Cape Town tuberculosis (TB) patients.  The project began April 1, 2004 in South Africa and continued for 6 months. The main objective of the project was to improve the success rate of TB treatment and to remind patients to adhere to treatment for TB and other diseases. The project utilized SMS, sent to the patients’ mobile phones, to remind patients to take their TB medication. In this project, the community health workers made use of timely, two-way electronic transmission of information text messages enable to send communicate with the district offices. They depended on mobile caching servers to send out data over the cellular network. A significant number of patients were interviewed to collect health data and to understand how this intervention improved patient adherence. A cost-benefit analysis done after completion of the project showed that the network brought about 24% savings per unit of spending over the traditional manual data collection and transmission approaches. The text messages had removed the tedious paperwork and the travelling of the health workers from one place to another. Thus it saved a lot of money on paperwork and fuel for vehicles.

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