Mobile Health (mHealth) is safe delivery application for health workers involved in managing child births. Films with clinical instructions on key obstetric procedures are available on the app. The app would help the health workers make use of their learnt skills into put it into actual practice. The app helps health workers provide effective and efficient maternity care.
(i) A recent joint report by PwC and the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) states that mHealth is expected to be crucial in making healthcare accessible in India. Also, it has the potential to save the country $0.8-1 billion annually.
(ii) It goes a long way in helping people be more in control of their health, be more aware and better educated about symptoms for various diseases which shouldn’t go unchecked, their health risks as well as, precautionary measures one can take to protect oneself.
- For instance air quality related health apps that could give you an alert when the air quality in your home or locality goes above safe limits.
- mHealth offers a great promise to help cater to the needs of people with limited healthcare and family planning services and information in their everyday environment.
- Mobile healthcare brings experts to small cities and give the excess to the general population for the care they deserve.
- Telemedicine, emergency services, text messaging services, supervision and support services to the healthcare service staff, and data collection are among the functions that mobile telephony has brought in as new opportunities to develop services that would cater also to the underprivileged, rural, and less educated part of the population, and attempt to cover the last mile.
(i) Poor infrastructure:
- The rural population has very poor network connectivity.
- Most of the poor population cannot afford to buy a decent smartphone which will give them access to mHealth.
(ii) Security concerns:
- In the case of mHealth apps, there is no way to know if the app developer has taken appropriate measures to ensure security and protect his/her app against malicious attacks.
- When the same phone is shared by several persons, it is difficult to maintain privacy and direct the message to the relevant person only.
(ii) Huge volume and fragmented market:
- More than 1,65,000 mHealth applications are available across the iTunes and Android app stores.
- Many mHealth apps are of dubious origin and abandoned by the developer after an initial release or one update.
- There is no way for a prospective user to know which apps can be trusted.
(iii) Lack of awareness:
The Government of India has launched a few mHealth initiatives. However, lack of awareness is a huge deterrent.
(iv) Text-based services do not work in remote rural areas because a considerable proportion of people are still illiterate.
(v) Patients find cost, lack of relevant applications and provider’s unwillingness to use mHealth to be the top barriers to adoption.
(vi) Manual intervention: Be it the use of SMS, apps or audio/video consultations, a lot of manual intervention is necessary in the case of mHealth, which makes it unattractive.
(vii) Lack of regulatory issues, logistics and availability of appropriate, need-based, customised solutions are some of the major challenges in the way of widespread utilisation of mHealth.
- Instead of focusing on apps for smartphones, the main interest should be directed to the establishing of non-profit call centres and service centres that are able to cater to people’s information and personal support needs in health issues.
- It is essential to listen to the client experience: what the people’s needs are, and what kind of services would correspond to their everyday predicaments.
- Mobile integration with external devices, sensors and systems can play a big role here. mHealth app developers need to develop APIs/interfaces to extract and capture data automatically wherever possible.
- Providers can play the role of influencers and promote mHealth adoption by helping patients to identify the right apps.
India can rise to the track of social development not by forgetting the most underprivileged, but by providing them the bounty of mobile technology in the form that is acceptable and accessible for their health-seeking.