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Mobiles to transform healthcare in India

Nov 18, 2010

India may soon address healthcare needs in the rural area through mobiles. mHealth or mobile health solutions can be relatively affordable, and with the wide proliferation of mobile communication technologies in the rural areas, they can be ideal to provide healthcare at the grassroots level.

Delivery of healthcare services to the rural population through mobile phones could be the cheapest medium to penetrate the bottom of the pyramid and Public Private Partnership could be the best way to make this happen.

“Over the coming years India will able to provide the best possible healthcare at the cheapest possible price. This calls for coordinated engagement of the government and private sector in this price-sensitive market,” said Sachin Pilot, minister of sate for communication and information technology at the India Economic Summit.

Given the dearth of qualified medical personnel and deep penetration of low-cost mobile telephony, mHealth programmes are well-suited for India’s rural population, according to Price Waterhouse Coopers. Sangeeta Reddy, executive director, Apollo Group said the the first generation of mobile-health services will be provided at a nominal cost such as a dollar to ensure maximum outreach. Globally, the mobile health technology market is expected to grow 25% annually from a current $1.5 billion to $4.6 billion in value terms by the year 2014.

Jamie Ferguson, executive director, HIT Strategy and Policy Fellow, Kaiser Permanente, USA underlined the need to have in place the required financing infrastructure, based on pre-defined payments to the professional healthcare service providers as well as specific mechanism to customise date collection starting at the level of hospitals. David Aylward, executive director, mHealth Alliance, United Nations Foundation, Washington DC reiterated the need to maintain consolidated data. He felt that the process of data collection and distribution should go hand in hand with the implementation of healthcare policies. Reddy said that availability of implementation of Unique Identification Number programme could significantly enhance efficiency in relevant data collection.

Mobile health services will reach half a billion mobile users by 2010 according to Global Mobile Health Market Report 2010-2015. Already, 17,000 mobile health applications are available. Around 43% of health applications currently available are aimed at the care providers and health professionals.

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