Mobile health: The future of global healthcare

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Goodluck Issa Nchasi is a 2nd year medical student at Catholic University Of Health And Allied Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, located in Mwanza, Tanzania. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


A famous quote by Mahatma Gandhi says “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” There has been a great evolution in the health care system since the 19th century (1). The unprecedented growth of mobile technologies, as well as advancements in their innovative application to address health priorities, has evolved into a new field known as Mobile health (mHealth). Mobile health is a rapidly expanding field in the digital health sector providing healthcare support, delivery and intervention via mobile technologies such as smartphones, tablets and wearables(2). According to the International Telecommunication Union, there are now close to 5 billion mobile phone subscriptions in the world(3).

Rise of Mobile Health Applications

Since the launch of the Google Play and iTunes platforms in 2008, the number of apps for mobile phones has continuously grown. It has been estimated that there are about 325,000 apps(4) classified in the categories of health and medicine. Of these, 65% are dedicated to well-being (exercise, healthy lifestyle, control of stress, dieting, and nutrition). Those dedicated to specific diseases constitute 9% of the total, followed by those related to pregnancy (7%) and apps focused on treatment adherence or alarms to take medication (6%).

Healthcare facilities are leveraging mobile technology in new ways to drive down costs and help keep their services affordable for as many people as possible. Mobile technology is changing the healthcare industry through the following ways,

  1. Mobile computer cart equipped with a camera enables physicians to conduct appointments with their patients by video conference. This mode of treatment has shown a lot of promise in reducing transport and treatment costs for patients who shouldn’t spend hours in the waiting room.
  • Mobile technology is helping to reduce the length of the average hospital stay, a welcome change for a healthcare environment where bills for overnight hospital stays are prohibitively expensive for many(5).

Mobile health in middle and low-income countries

Governments are expressing more interest in mHealth as a complementary strategy for strengthening health systems and achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in low and middle-income countries. mHealth is being applied in maternal and child health, and programmes reducing the burden of the diseases linked with poverty, including HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. mHealth applications are focused on improving timely access to emergency and general health services and information, managing patient care, reducing drug shortages at health clinics, enhancing clinical diagnosis and treatment adherence(3).

References

1.         Hillman K. The Evolution of the Health Care System.

2.         Milward J. What Is… Mobile Health? SOCIETY FOR THE STUDY OF ADDICTION. 2019.

3.         Organization WH. mHealth: New horizons for health through mobile technologies: second global survey on eHealth. 2011.

4.         M P. Mobile Health Apps Available in 2017 – Android Now the Leading mHealth Platform Internet 2017.

5.         Lurie A. How Mobile Technology Is Changing The Healthcare Industry. Health IT OUTCOMES. 2018.

About the author

Goodluck Issa Nchasi is a 2nd year medical student at Catholic University Of Health And Allied Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, located in Mwanza,
Tanzania. He is also a member of the Tanzania Medical Students Association (TAMSA), as the national officer of SCORE – Standing Committee on Research Exchange

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