• mHealth
  • More mHealth services coming to sub-Saharan Africa

    According to IT News Africa, GSMA has announced the launch of its new cross-ecosystem partnership. It aims to provide a range of mHealth services to women and children across Sub-Saharan Africa. The initial launch partners include Gemalto, Hello Doctor, Lifesaver, Mobenzi, Mobilium, MTN, Omega Diagnostics and Samsung.

    In September 2014, services will be launched in seven countries. They are Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia. Phase two starts in 2015. It incorporates more partners and services and four more countries: Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.

    Tom Phillips, Chief Regulatory Officer for GSMA said, “This new mobile ecosystem partnership is committed to connecting the mobile and health industries to develop commercially sustainable mHealth services that meet public health needs.” 

    The partnership aims to reduce barriers to handset owners and improve connectivity for consumers and health workers by:

    Offering discounted Samsung handsets and tablets to consumers and health workers across Africa Providing access to Samsung’s ecosystem, such as music, video and other value-added services as an incentive to drive health usage Pre-embeding a Smart Health application with a range of professional applications, information and services on 80 million Samsung handsets Leveraging existing and new MTN SIMs to allow free access to health content, health registration and data collection with the Smart Health application Providing simpler access to MTN mobile money, advertising and billing capabilities Making innovative diagnostics, like the Omega Diagnostics Visitect HIV CD4 gene solution, more affordable and accessible with mobiles.

    Health content, patient registration, data collection and critical diagnostics will increase the access to healthcare for vulnerable women and children across Africa. It also aims to provide a delivery mechanism for mHealth services that are commercially sustainable and scalable.

    “Healthcare in Africa has benefited greatly from advancements in mobile technology. Simultaneously, the healthcare industry is moving towards a delivery model that is more patient-centered, value-based and accessible in even remote environments,” said Thabiet Allie, Head of Content and Services at Samsung Electronics Africa. “Samsung is perfectly positioned to add value to this digital evolution in healthcare, as our devices are both at the cutting edge of innovation and available widely across the continent.”

    eHNA is looking forward to seeing the results of the monitoring and evaluation to show the net benefits and the options for expansion.

  • Google's passionate about your fitness, and health

    Does the difference between health and fitness matter? Maybe not too much. Fitness is about 17% of the USA mobile app market according to reserach2guidence in its report mHealth App Developer Economics 2014 The State of the Art of mHealth App Publishing.

    The Verge has a report on Google’s unveiling of Google Fit, its personal health application, at the launch of the Google I/O developer conference 25-26 June 2014. Google Fit aims to collect data from popular fitness trackers and health related apps. It will allow a wearable device that measures data such as steps or heart rate to interface with Google’s cloud-based services and become part of the Google Fit network. These are important components of fitness, but health too. It’s an exciting development.

    The personal health application is expected to compete with Apple’s HealthKit application, the concept modelled on Apple’s Passbook app, an effective pocket accessory for keeping important information like boarding passes, tickets, gift cards and coupons.

    Forbes reports on it too, indicating that it’s too soon to confirm whether Google Fit will be an app or whether it will be built into the next version of Android, the operating system that currently runs on over 1 billion smartphones and tablets globally.

    Google announced several partners for its Google Fit initiative. It includes Nike, Adidas, Withings, RunKeeper, and Basis. Phew, it’ll be hard to keep up with these. App developers may want to start warming up – access to the software development kit should be available in the coming weeks.

  • Mobile technology's profiled in an eBook

    Keeping up with mHealth developments is hard. FierceHealthIT has released its commentary as an eBook on the latest example and profile that helps. Verizon, a wireless and technology provider, sponsored the eBook. It includes examples of: St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital in New York, where care transition teams send nurses into the community with a mobile EKG device that attaches to a smartphone and mobile, Internet-enabled technologies ensure that patients have the right care in the right setting at the right time

    Boston Children’s Hospital uses a range of mobile apps both patients and physicians, including one that helps patients and their families navigate the healthcare system and another that helps them coordinate and communicate with their healthcare team The Veterans Health Administration is working to make its electronic medical system available on mobile devices, with plans for apps for doctors to access other back-end systems At Children’s National Medical Center, a texting pilot program has had early success in improving care transitions and outcomes for asthma patients and has improved patients’ and parents’ experiences.

    mHealth has expanded fast and shows no signs of slowing down. It has the potential to make patients feel more connected to their care and clinicians more connected to their patients, especially during care transitions.

    The range of mHealth opportunities is both wide and skewed. Research2Guidance has published its latest mHealth economics assessment. It shows a USA mHealth distribution[1] across twelve mHealth categories:

    Fitness  30% Medical reference: drugs, disease, symptoms information  7% Wellness apps  15% Nutrition  7% Medical conditions  7% Personal health record  3% CME  2% Diagnostics  2% Compliance  1% Reminders  1% Remote consultation  1% Others  14%

    The mHealth snapshot in the eBook is a good way to keep up with this changing array.

    [1] mHealth App Developer Economics 2014 The State of the Art of mHealth App Publishing research2guidance

  • Do doctors like mHealth?

    As mHealth’s promised transformation of healthcare bumps along, Physician Perceptions of Mobile & Connected Health What Every Marketer Should Know, published by the MedData Group reveals the views of more than 500 USA physicians. Currently, about two-thirds of physicians use some form of mobile device. The biggest role, almost half, is for medical interactions. Diagnosis is next, approaching 30%. The biggest demand over the next year, nearly 60%, is for new mHealth is to have mobile access to EHRs. It’s seen as offering the most benefits.

    More than 35% want three other applications

    Secure texting Points-of-care information about drugs and diagnosis Patient portals for scheduling communication.

    The top three challenges to progress are:

    Security Interoperability Cost.

    An overarching challenge is to solve physicians’ problems first. After that, the focus can be patients, hospitals and healthcare systems.

    More than half the physicians, 57%, see the heralded mHealth connected transformation as taking more than five years. By then, mHealth technology and opportunities may be very different to the current versions.

    The demand is positive, but specific. How does this match Africa’s needs?

  • Zapmedic connects patients to doctors

    Zapmedic, the flagship product of Bitways startup, in Uganda, has launched an online medical appointment scheduling service that aims to ease the process of finding the right doctors on line. Zapmedic is a mobile and web app for both doctors and patients. Patients are able to schedule an appointment and check in online, while the app manages the doctor’s daily appointments.

    The aim is to improve access to healthcare by helping patients and medical practitioners find one another easily and conveniently. Zapmedic has been selected as a finalist for the fourth edition of the PIVOT East mobile startups event in Nairobi on 24 and 25 June.

    An article in Africa Health IT News quotes Bitways’s Chief executive officer (CEO) Wasswa Samuel saying “Our country has one of the lowest doctor to patient ratios, meaning getting access to doctors remains a huge challenge. We thought that if we could make details of these doctors available and provide direct access to them, perhaps we could in a small way improve access to these doctors.”

    The latest figures suggest that Uganda’s doctor to patient ratio stands at 1:15,000, well below the recommended WHO ratio for Africa of 1:10,000.

    The app is currently being piloted by 26 doctors in two hospital chains. The results so far are positive. The app registers anywhere between 20 to 50 appointments per week. Zapmedic charges each practice as it uses its platform to send out appointment reminders, confirmations and prescriptions.

    Wasswa Samuel plans to scale up the initiative and make it more widely available.

  • A text message program boosts diabetes care and cuts costs

    Text messaging offers a simple way to improve healthcare. A smartphone medical app with a stethoscope and a text messaging program helps patients control their diabetes, improve clinical outcomes and cut healthcare costs, according to Health Affairs,  MedPage Today. Participants in the program received educational materials and text message alerts reminding them about various diabetes self-management activities, such as medication refill reminders and self-assessments

    Researchers found that participating patients’ glucose levels declined from an average of 7.9% prior to the study to 7.2% after the study. Healthcare costs for each patient dropped by about $812, with savings of $437 each including program costs. Overall, costs declined by 8.8% for the intervention group.

    This offers good lessons for African countries contemplating an expansion of these type of eHealth.

  • mHealth apps keep coming

    Jacob F Field claimed in the title of his book that history is “One Bloody Thing After Another: The World’s Gruesome History.” The constant supply of mHealth apps feels a bit like this, but without the haematological and gruesome links. Making sense and keeping up with it is hard going. Lt Dan’s article on HIS Talk connect brings together a list of websites that assemble data on mHealth apps.

    PatientView, a UK-based healthcare research and consultancy firm, has launched an mHealth app store that collects clinically validated, trustworthy mHealth apps for patients and care providers. It is supported by several organizations, including GSK, Janssen, and Novo Nordisk, some international telecom companies, and public health entities across Europe.

    The rating system that PatientView uses has five criteria:

    Gives people more control over their condition Easy to use Can be used regularly Allow networking with other people like them Trustworthy.

    Happtique has physicians and health systems as its end users rather than patients. It certifies mHealth apps before they are added to Happtiques, its apps formulary.

    HealthTap is a platform where anonymous users can put health and wellness questions to approved physicians, who provide the answers. It has an app store too. HealthTap allows its physicians to recommend apps that they would recommend to their patients or to each other. The library shows the apps with the most recommendations.

    In England, NHS Choices Health Apps Library shows the apps judged as clinically safe by the NHS, and that the information in them is from a verifiable source. It also tests that developers do not misuse personal information that the apps collect.

    Wellocracy has an mHealth app library for fitness enthusiasts. The site, which is run by the Partner’s Healthcare Center for Connected Health in collaboration with the USA’s Massachusetts General Hospital.

    Lt Dan’s post provides a set of valuable links for African countries that are expanding their mHealth strategies. It makes it much easier than slogging through one app after another.

  • mHealth Alliance is helping developing nations develop mHealth

    The mHealth Alliance, a company that aims to improve health globally by leveraging the benefits of mHealth, has recently launched a mHealth program to support developing nations.

    The mHealth alliance (MHA) collaborated with Johnson & Johnson, to develop the mHealth Expert Learning Program (mHELP) which offers advice and other services “to address a persistent gap in the capacity of health programs and service implementers to design and deploy mobile health in low-resource settings.”

    Peter Benjamin, the MHA’s director of capacity building, unveiled the new program at the mHealthEd conference in Dublin, Ireland.  According to Benjamin, the problem that the program aims to address is that despite the fact that there is a lot of mHealth interest around the world, there are very few proven test models as “everyone in mHealth is still a pioneer.” The MHA wants to be a source of expert advice so that countries and ministries do not need to develop mHealth programs from scratch.

    “mHealth and eHealth are increasingly transforming the way public health and health services are being accessed by and delivered to those living in low- and middle-income countries, but institutions are often hindered by the lack of adequate expertise or experience,” said Patricia Mechael, the MHA’s executive director. “In the course of the past year, we have moved from a question of ‘if’ mHealth to a question of ‘how’ do we approach it?”

    The mHELP program hopes to take this to the next level by providing a direct channel to technical assistance and support for individuals, governments, the private sector and non-governmental organizations, which will allow them to effectively fill capacity gaps and bring projects to scale.

    mHELP is already involved in two African countries and hopes to increase this number rapidly. In Tanzania, the group is working to create a cellphone-based registration and decision support system to combat mother-to-child HIV transmission. They are also working in South Africa, where they are partnering with the Department of Health to create a mHealth-based national maternal and child health framework, which is targeting (among other things) the diagnosis and treatment of HIV and AIDS.

  • New iPhone app to reduce the risk of strokes

    The WHO estimated that 17.3 million people died from Cardio Vascular Diseases (CVD) in 2008, representing 30% of all global deaths. Of these deaths, an estimated 6.2 million were due to stroke, with over 80% of the world’s deaths from CVDs occurring in low- and middle-income countries.

    Researchers from the University of Sydney have found a way to detect cardiovascular conditions early using inexpensive, portable equipment. They have developed a smartphone-based screening device that coupled with a web-based prediction facility can detect atrial fibrillation (AF) with an accuracy of 97%. Undiagnosed AF increases the risk of stroke five-fold and is responsible for around a third of all strokes.

    Ten community pharmacies tested the AliveCor Heart Monitor for iPhone (iECG). The app gives a live ECG reading while uploading a PDF of the ECG to a server where the results are analyzed automatically for AF. The results can then be shared with doctors and specialists.

    Early detection of AF is critical and is easily treatable. This new iPhone device highlights the potential benefits of mHealth and how a simple device can be used to save the lives of thousands of people who would otherwise not have access to screening and treatment options.

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    Editor's note: the study refered to above was published in Thromb Haemost in June 2014. It's abstract is available here.

  • Uganda's mTrac an AfDB eHealth winner

    Uganda’s MOH has partnered with UNICEF to create mTrac, one of ten winners of the 2013 AfDB’s eHealth awards. Their Rapid-SMS-based health tool is designed to strengthen the Ugandan health system by speeding up response times and bolstering accountability.

    mTrac operates in over 75% of health facilities with national coverage expected during 2014. It is recognized internationally for real time monitoring of diseases, tracking of essential medicines, and improving health service delivery.

    The initiative was launched in 2011 in an effort to improve Health Management Information Systems (HMIS) reporting on disease surveillance and medicine tracking systems for Uganda’s 5,000 health facilities.

    Health Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda said in a joint statement that “mTrac addresses a crucial need of the Ministry of Health, ensuring that accurate, real-time information from every health facility is available to national and local government stakeholders for action.”

    AfDB’s eHealth award encourages sharing of knowledge, solutions and experiences about eHealth in Africa. It promotes collaboration between countries and regions to improve eHealth development and implementation. Winners are examples of the practical, sustained, transferable benefits that eHealth can offer.