Mobile health (mHealth) is a term used for the practice of medicine and public health supported by mobile devices such as mobile phones, tablet computers and PDAs. Globally, the phenomenon of mHealth has already emerged gaining popularity but it is still in developing stages in many under developed and developing countries. There is no denying the fact that mobile technology has the potential to play a vital part in the transformation of healthcare and increase its quality and efficiency.
mHealth is a rapidly growing field providing the potential to enhance patient education, prevent disease, enhance diagnostics, improve treatment, lower health care costs and increase access to health care services. The developed regions like Europe, Australia USA etc are taking full advantage of mobile intervention into health care as it is an easier way to manage health issues. Also connectivity is no more a dream; we are living in a technologically advanced world where things are easily explored. mHealth can have a strong affect in developing countries since it allows remote locations to get access to medical care and create local knowledge about health related issues. Developed countries are spending lot of resources towards the integration of ICT with health care systems. However, there are financial constraints in the developing countries that hamper their progress in mHealth. Apart from financial constraints, other important issues include the reforms in healthcare policy and realizing the significance of mHealth that can bring improvements into the medical system at large.
Pakistan is a developing country with more than half of its population located in rural areas.[pull_quote_right]Pakistan is a developing country with more than half of its population located in rural areas. These areas neither have sufficient health care professionals nor a strong infrastructure that can address the health needs of the people[/pull_quote_right]
These areas neither have sufficient health care professionals nor a strong infrastructure that can address the health needs of the people.
No government in the past has paid any attention to the health sector of the country and the policy makers badly neglected the need of educating the people and providing them with health care. But now the expansion of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) around the globe has set up an unprecedented opportunity for delivery of healthcare facilities in far flung areas and Pakistan can also benefit from it like other developing countries. Mobile Health (mHealth)—the provision of health care services through mobile telephony—will revolutionize the way health care is delivered.[pull_quote_left]Health issues in developing countries like Pakistan have increased at an alarming pace as more and more fatal diseases are spreading around the world. mHealth is well-positioned to counter these issues whereby taking advantage of current ICT innovation[/pull_quote_left]
Analyzing the current situation of Pakistan, we can say that many stakeholders can benefit from the advances in mHealth. These include individuals, government, health organizations, NGOs, employers, and suppliers. It has the potential to reduce per capita cost of healthcare while increasing or at least maintaining care quality.
Mobile Messages can enhance disease and epidemic awareness as well as educate health-care service workers. In today’s world, mHealth has a role to play in improving new “gross national happiness” indicators by producing a happier and, healthier population. It has the potential to improve health service availability.
The need for health sector reforms, emphasis on better health outcomes through poverty reduction efforts, process of devolution and participation in achieving Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations are a few important factors that have generated debate on contemporary health policies in Pakistan.
The debate centers on whether the policies are relevant and have a responsiveness which will work towards achieving better health for the population. Some of the recent mHealth initiatives take by our Government includes:
- Punjab: Dengue Monitoring System
- Punjab: HealthWatch
- KPK: Independent Monitoring Unit for Health Sector (IMU)
Whereas, Sindh and Baluchistan, the most backward provinces of Pakistan are still living in more or less stone ages where health issues lead to death as public are unable to find proper medical facilities.
In such situation, the Government can take advantage of technology while designing reliable mHealth systems through wide collaboration between engineers and doctors to create and evaluate effective mechanisms that can ensure good health facilities. Private sector can also play a major role in introducing m-Health initiatives in Pakistan. In fact there are many startup projects that are being undertaken in the country. Pakistani app developers are also developing basic health apps that are making a wave in the industry.[pull_quote_right]mHealth has the potential to reduce per capita cost of healthcare while increasing or at least maintaining care quality[/pull_quote_right]
The field of mHealth has proven to be beneficial through dozens of successfully implemented projects across the globe. Moreover, technological innovations will also bring about enhanced benefits in the coming years. Health issues in developing countries like Pakistan have increased at an alarming pace as more and more fatal diseases are spreading at a disturbing. mHealth is well-positioned to counter these issues whereby taking advantage of current ICT innovations. Emerging technologies will also be proved an asset in handling health needs of present situation of Pakistan. The Government must devise such health polices in which the interests of all stakeholders must be kept in mind for the development of mHealth.
By: Rana Junaid Naseer