Understanding mHealth’s Role in Developing Nations

A new study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research shows that opportunities for mHealth certainly exist in developing nations, especially when the treatment of children is involved.

mHealth can support the performance of health care workers by the dissemination of clinical updates, learning materials, and reminders, particularly in underserved rural locations in low- and middle-income countries where community health workers deliver integrated community case management to children sick with diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria.

But the study in question may have ultimately raised more questions than it answered.

The review, according to this week’s published report, revealed that there are very few formal outcome evaluations of mHealth in low-income countries.

But why?

“Although there is vast documentation of project process evaluations, there are few studies demonstrating an impact on clinical outcomes,” a report summary reads. “There is also a lack of mHealth applications and services operating at scale in low- and middle-income countries.”

JMIR finds that the most commonly documented use of mHealth was 1-way text-message and phone reminders to “encourage follow-up appointments, healthy behaviors, and data gathering.”

“As with many other health improvement projects,” the summary concludes, “a key challenge is moving mHealth approaches from pilot projects to national scalable programs while properly engaging health workers and communities in the process. By harnessing the increasing presence of mobile phones among diverse populations, there is promising evidence to suggest that mHealth can be used to deliver increased and enhanced health care services to individuals and communities, while helping to strengthen health systems.

To learn more about the report’s findings and projections, click here.

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