Mobile Health

mHealth in Kenya– Health care on the go

mHealth is the delivery of healthcare services via mobile communication devices.
Wikipedia defines it as the field that,” broadly encompasses the use of mobile telecommunication and multimedia technologies in health care delivery. The term mHealth was coined by Robert Istepanian as use of emerging mobile communications and network technologies for healthcare. “
The main objective of mHealth is to provide a personalized health facility by making almost all health services accessible through mobile devices such as Smart phones, Tablets, even just low-end Mobile phones. This service is delivered through SMS, through Videos, through the Internet, even just through health applications.
It is estimated that more than 10 Million children globally die before they reach their 5th birthday annually from treatable ailments due to lack of basic health care, the majority of which emanate from the developing world. An estimated 9.7 Million lives of children could easily be saved yearly by deploying mHealth solutions such as those of  Connect Media’s low-cost tools such as mHealth applications, to assist in treating of easily preventable or curable causes.
Some 21,000 children die every day around the world.
of which is equivalent to:

  • 1 child dying every 4 seconds!
  • 14 children dying every minute!!
  • A 2011 Libya conflict-scale death toll every day
  • A 2010 Haiti earthquake occurring every 10 days
  • A 2004 Asian Tsunami occurring every 11 days
  • An Iraq-scale death toll every 19–46 days
  • Just under 7.6 million children dying every year
  • Some 92 million children dying between 2000 and 2010 – which translates into the whole Population of the UNITED KINGDOM, SWEDEN, PORTUGAL, NORWAY AND SINGAPORE COMBINED!!! Lost to easily preventable diseases.

The silent killers are poverty, hunger, easily preventable diseases and illnesses, and other related causes. Despite the scale of this daily/ongoing catastrophe, it rarely manages to achieve, much less sustain, prime-time, headline coverage.
“The continuation of this suffering and loss of life contravenes the natural human instinct to help in times of disaster. Imagine the horror of the world if a major earthquake were to occur and people stood by and watched without assisting the survivors! Yet every day, the equivalent of a major earthquake killing over 30,000 young children occurs to a disturbingly muted response. They die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”
— A spotty scorecard, UNICEF, Progress of Nations 2000

mHealth could also play a role of enabling early diagnosis, encouraging a move toward prevention rather than rushing towards last minute cures, and additionally allowing professionals in the health sector to be more efficient and also save their time by the adoption of mHealth technology.
mHealth is basically health care in your pocket, it assists in bringing of high quality health care facilities, affordably not only to the less affluent locales in the world, but also to the more opulent locales in the world .
For example the European Union (EU) estimates that mHealth will result in €99bn of savings in Europe, by helping cut healthcare costs.
Mobile is highly positioned to have a momentous sway on the state of healthcare delivery to both the developed and developing nations going forward.
As denoted by the World Health Organization there is a life-threatening shortage within the global healthcare workforce, which is a gap that mHealth attempts to bridge through the delivery of the health care facility through the emerging mobile communications and novel network technologies.
Benefits of mHealth Technology

  • mHealth enable physicians to easily keep tabs of their patient records which will result in the improvement of the quality of healthcare delivered.
  • mHealth apps also guide the patients on the ongoing treatment plans by keeping them fully informed on the treatment plan, they also ensure that the Patients have real-time access to medical records, post-visit instructions, pill reminders, and much more.
  • Patients also save time by not having to re-visit the doctors office unnecessarily to pick up test results and through scheduling appointments online rather than by phone. Especially for the patients who live in remote regions of the country won’t have to travel miles and miles to receive a doctor’s consultation, especially where an mHealth service could have filled in the gap.
  • mHealth facilities also lead to a reduction of health care costs especially where patients with chronic diseases utilize an app to transmit health measurements directly to their physician or specialist.  This reduction in routine office visits alone can significantly reduce health care costs, by saving on transportation costs.
  • mHealth happens when you’re on the move whether it’s for a physician, clinician or a patient.
  • mHealth also Helps in boosting social network availability for medical practitioners to reach out and connect to people in different locations, at any time of day, there will thus be n need to make any unnecessarily appointments, when the doctor will be available, and thus a patient may even be able to handle an emergency case, even when a doctor is far off.
  • mHealth also has the additional benefit of providing patients with greater control over their own health and well-being.

Investing in innovation

According to the EU it is being estimated that by 2017, 3.4 billion people around the world will own a smartphone and half of them will be using mHealth apps.
Nearly 100,000 such apps are already available in the mobile market, with the top 20 free sports, fitness and health apps accounting for more than 230 million downloads worldwide.
The EU has so far invested €100m in mHealth research, funding significant innovation. For example:

  • patients with kidney failure will soon be able to monitor their dialysis on their smartphone
  • apps already exist to manage stress by creating virtual environments in which users can learn relaxation techniques
  • medical staff in Graz, Austria, have greatly improved internal management with a new mobile system.

Almost €95m of further investment is up for grabs over the next 2 years.
Pitfalls of mHealth Technology
Despite the numerous benefits accrued by mHealth technology there is also a few shortcoming of the technology that also need to be addressed.
Data Privacy – Recent studies of free and paid apps show that most apps are transmitting the patients medical data through unencrypted connections to advertisers and third-party data analytics firms. This data mining, used for behavioral tracking, transmits detailed personal information to advertisers. There is also an issue of securely storing the sensitive data that is collected by mHealth applications.
mHealth Device Certification – There is a significant challenge when it comes to certifying mHealth application to be certified medical devices.
With an increasing mobile penetration across the globe, mHealth will continue to take root in the global market. Global mobile connections passed the 7 billion mark in April 2014, while the United Nation expects mobile connections to surpass the 7.2 billion mark by end of the year.
The Chinese economy which is the fastest growing economy in the world, as of Q4 2013, Chinese subscribers held 1.79 SIMs cards each, on average, which meant that 630 million mobile subscribers in China accounted for the country’s 1.25 billion connections – less than half of the population.
In essence rapid Mobile penetration especially in low and medium income homes has turned mHealth from a potential technology hype-driven innovation to a mobile innovation mainstay. Swift growth in mobile technology infrastructure, reduced costs of low-end Smart phones, intense adoption of Android phones in the local Kenyan market have allowed a two-way communication become available at time of need, thus the earlier mHealth is adopted faster the betterment of all.