What is mHealth, what does it do & how does it benefit Countries?
mHealth is the use of mobile technology to provide health care support to patients or technical support to health service providers in a direct, low-cost and engaging manner. The WHO/ITU programme aims to assist governments to use mobile components to reinforce their existing national health activities to prevent, manage, and treat non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and their risk factors. The aim is not to create new and independent programmes, but to collaborate with governments, and engage with partners including the private sector and to build on existing structures. This makes the mobile projects faster to adopt and more sustainable in the long term.
1. Reduction in health spending
All countries in the world regardless of GDP are faced with rising health care costs. The global economic recession has further squeezed global government spend on health care. Many health care costs are preventable if illnesses are detected and tackled early on through a focus on prevention and health promotion.
2. Healthy population
Mobile health offers a way to reduce health care costs by empowering citizens to intervene in their own health care early on and by using cost-effective and already existing technology.
3. Adoption of existing mHealth services
The WHO-ITU programme allows existing solutions in the target countries to be refined and expanded, increasing their impact on improving population health and potentially being passed on to other countries in the initiative. It is designed to create mobile health programmes based on scientifically verified knowledge, which is currently lacking in many mHealth tools or apps created independently, putting the user’s health at risk. An example of an intervention which could benefit from this is the NHS’s Smartphone app for checking disease symptoms.
4. Enforcement of policies
The programme reinforces existing national policy on NCDs and promotes health and technology innovation.
5. IP & investment opportunities
There were more mobile devices by the end of 2012 than there are people in the world. More people have access to mobile devices than currently have access to clean water, electricity or toothbrushes. Most people are never further than three feet from their smartphone, 24 hours a day. This technology, coupled with the fact that the wellness and NCD mobile health market is projected to garner revenue of US$23 billion in 2017 means that there are exciting business opportunities for the 8 focus countries during the initiative.
6. Opportunities for Research and Development
Implementing mHealth in the country will attract further studies and innovations around the health areas, as it will provide a strong base platform of data and experience.
7. Demonstrates commitment to achieving NCD reduction targets
All UN Member States are required to actively work towards reducing NCDs, following the UN High Level Meeting on NCDs in September 2011. mHealth is a rapid way to ensure that progress towards those targets is met.
8. Positions the country as a leader in NCD innovations
This raises a country’s global profile and places them in a strong position for bidding for other mobile innovations in the health sector and beyond.