Africa likely to lead in mobile health

The development of health solutions through mobile devices is revolutionizing healthcare delivery in developing countries. A number of mobile operators, governments and application developers are already working on projects in Africa that are using mobile phones to improve prevention efforts, patient care, treatment support and health data collection. They believe they will explore activities with appropriate local partners to deliver sustainable and scalable mHealth solutions in Africa. Lack o

Mobile operators and partners from developed countries are projecting that it will take at least five years before they can navigate through laws and develop appropriate business models, but in Africa, m-Health projects are taking off. Big companies and organizations such as Accenture, Qualcomm, Orange, MTN and the UN Foundation Health Alliance have been involved in pilot projects in India and Africa – but are yet to come up with models that will work in the Western world.

Sanlam, South Africa's leading health-care services provider, is working with telco MTN to roll out 11 products in the 22 African countries in which MTN operates. Sanlam has developed more than 3,600 diagnoses profiles and is expecting to use mobile phones to allow people to determine their ailments, self-medicate or consult doctors, depending on the symptoms.

Mobile health projects have been seen as new avenues for operators and their partners to expand revenue streams
Mobile health projects have been seen as new avenues for operators and their partners to expand revenue streams

Security and privacy of information are major challenges in the Western world, where laws restrict access to medical records. In countries where privacy laws and medical jurisprudence are not well-developed however, the desire to provide medical services might take precedence. African countries like South Africa, Rwanda and Kenya have seen increased growth in m-Health mobile applications.

Qualcomm conducted a pilot m-health project, and the results from South Africa and Kenya indicated that the m-health projects should be rolled out in more areas. The challenge for many countries in Africa is not privacy but how do you make health care more accessible to people? Yes, privacy is important but there are other pressing needs. Mhealth can help alleviate some of the challenges facing the health sector in Zimbabwe. Mobile operators in Zimbabwe must team up with local partners in offering m-Health services especially in rural areas. This can go a long way in fighting diseases through preventative measures and early diagnosis. Innovative solutions to m-Health can lead to generations of revenue by the operators and the applications developers.

The inaugural GSMA-mHA Mobile Health Summit will be held 6-9 June 2011 in Cape Town, South Africa. The premier event will bring together the key stakeholders in the mobile health world – from leaders in government, private sector and industry, to developers and implementers working on the ground, in order to further the understanding and adoption of mobile technology in the health sector. The GSMA also announced that it has launched Mobile Health Live, an online information centre designed specifically for mobile health professionals.

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