Last week the mHealth Summit took place in Washington, D.C. Participants shared information on mobile technology, health research, and policy. Leaders of governments, the private sector, non-profits organizations and academia met at the mHealth Summit to dialogue and collaborate to advance mobile health projects. Cell phones play an important role in the mobile health technology strategy.
More than 100 Countries Use Mobile Health Technology
Attending the mHealth Summit was a Who’s Who list of important organizations. Conference organizers, include such notable members as the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health and the mHealth Alliance. The mHealth Alliance is made up of the United Nations Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Vodafone Foundation. Featured conference speakers included William Gates, head of the Gates Foundation, Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Julio Frenk, M.D., Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health and Chairman of The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, Ted Turner, Chairman and Founder of the United Nations Foundation and Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation.
Is mobile health technology all that far reaching? According to an article by Neil Versel, FierceMobileHealthcare.com, 90% of the world population lives in range of a wireless telephone signal. 70% of the 5 billion cell phone users are in third world countries, and by 2015, the mHealth Alliance expects 50% of all cell phone users will be able to access the web on their cell phones. Already 100 countries are using some type of mobile health technology. “The information technology is not revolutionary. Its use in health is,” Julian Schweitzer, chair of the Finance Working Group for the UN Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, said. “I’m not saying that mobile technology is a panacea, but there’s such tremendous possibility, primarily because the cell phones are already there and usage is growing so fast,” says Dr. Schweitzer.
1,000 women die daily in childbirth worldwide. Schweitzer is hoping that mHealth will address this issue, and work to reduce child and maternal mortality. While advanced mobile health technology can greatly impact the rate of infant and maternal mortality, even basic cell phones can save lives. Midwives using cell phones and mobile health technology can connect to monitor fetal heartbeats, or use remote ultrasounds.
“With mobile technologies for health, called ‘mhealth’ or ‘mobile health,’ we’re extending capabilities to where they don’t exist today,” says David Aylward, who heads mHealth Alliance. “In the near future, wireless diagnostics like stethoscopes, blood pressure, temperature and insulin monitors, and ultrasounds will enable remote diagnosis and treatment far from the closest doctor or clinic,” says Mr. Aylward.
Isn’t technology wonderful? The ability to do medical diagnostics via a cell phone just boggles my mind. Think of what this will mean to remote areas of the world that have little or no access to hospitals.