19 February 2013

The Burden of Proof on mHealth Practitioners

There may really be an app for everything.

Cell phones are being used to perform echo cardiograms by American primary care physicians. Pregnant women in Bangladesh are receiving text message reminders to improve maternal health. Here’s a story from SciDev todayabout using phones to diagnose malaria.

The rapidly expanding use of mobile phones in health applications, aka mHealth, is widely touted as a global revolution unfolding. It may yet be, but where’s the evidence in support of the claims?

It is expected that 80% of the people living on the African continent will have access to mobile phones by the end of this year. This technological leap means that information can be communicated to more people in places that were previously hard to reach, or completely isolated. The diffusion of this technology has not been lost on governments, NGOs and the private sector. All are seeking ways to improve health services using phones.

A pair of studies published earlier in the year looked at the evidence base for mHealth interventions. Both found reason for optimism about the benefits of employing mobile technologies in health, but agreed that the evidence base was far too weak.