Mobile Health, Africa is leading this one
When everything seems to be working against you, suddenly there is an opportunity to create or lead in discovering something new. Africa is plagued with all sorts of problems, to an extent, to find solutions to its problems can be problematic too.
Since the inception or introduction of mobile applications to healthcare, it hasn’t find a more comfortable or be embraced than Africa. The numbers of mobile health project in the continent clearly number its implementation anywhere else. This has made a lot innovators and researchers to be choosing Africa countries as pilot platform to test and validate their new innovations. Realistically, there are still lots to be done to make the use of mHealth more widespread and integrated into healthcare in Africa. However, despite the lack of infrastructures and vast capital, the following factors can be said to be the key factors for the adaption and the success of mobile health in Africa
Factors behind Africa Mobile Health Growth
• Growing number of Mobile phone users Africa is the world’s second leading mobile market and the most rapidly expanding mobile market globally. It has the second highest proportion of mobile web traffic (14.85%) and Asia (17.84%). Africa has over 650 million mobile phone subscribers, which is more than both the USA and EU. Around 20% of mobile users are now using smartphones in Africa. In 2012 data accounted for 14.3% of mobile service revenues in Africa, but by 2018 this figure is set to double. One conservative prediction published in 2014 suggests there will be 334 million African smartphone connections by 2017, some 30% of the continent’s population.
According to the statistics realised by ITU who are widely recognized as the world’s most reliable and impartial global data on the state of the global ICT industry, mobile-cellular subscriptions will reach almost 7 billion by end 2014, it is predicted that 78% of the mobile-cellular subscriptions would be from the developing world. In a Gallup published statistics, more than two-third of the households has a mobile phone in 2013. • Cheapest to set up Compared the cost of setting infrastructures to accommodate basic healthcare needs mobile phone seems to be the less cost intensive and more cost effective choice. This based on how much you would need to buy or developed basic EPR or EHR which can be used to capture or disseminate information directly to patients.
• Huge Return on Investment A lot of mobile telecommunication companies have initiated or started different mHealth project in Africa. For example, there are mHealth project supported or owned by Vodafone, Orange, MTN, Glo etc. these are public owned companies not created for charitable goals
• Less resistance to change Majority of people who needs healthcare in Africa would do anything to get affordable care. There are virtually no better alternative that is affordable or available. Health is regarded my most in the continent as wealth. Majority of patients across Africa needs to walk miles to access healthcare or get laboratory on test results. Thus, getting SMS alert at no or affordable cost would be a no brainer.
Likewise, the healthcare workers are more willing to do test or the spot and get validation for diagnosis using registered mobile phones. m-Pedigree is being used across Africa to validate drugs expiry date and detect counterfeit drugs Successful mHealth projects
• MAMA(Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action). MAMA works with low-income and at-risk mothers and families to provide vital health information through SMS text messaging and simple voice messages. MAMA is a Public-Private project from the US government (USAID), Johnson & Johnson, mHealth Alliance and Baby Center. MAMA founding partners are making a three-year, $10 million investment to create and strengthen programs in the 3 countries and to enhance global capability of new and existing mobile health information programs for moms in those countries and beyond.
• M-Pedigree M-Pedigree is a mobile application helping users determine the authenticity of their medication. allows all patients and consumers – regardless of educational background, income or status – to instantly verify the safety and efficacy of their medicines using their own or a shared mobile phone at no cost across the 95% of territory where a mobile signal is available. M-Pedigree partner the principal telecom operators in Africa (Airtel, Orange, MTN), the leading pharmaceutical industry associations on the continent, Fortune 500 technology powerhouses (HP, Nokia) and most influencing NGO’s (World Economic Forum, TED, Ashoka).
• WinSenga WinSenga is a mobile medical device which consists of a funnel-like pinnard horn, linkable to a mobile phone, in order to scan a pregnant woman’s womb or detect foetal problems. WinSenga allows the examiner to determine the age, weight, position and breathing pattern of the foetus. This will give the examiner a clue on what treatment to give and help remote diagnosis because all exams are recorded automatically.
Aaron Tushabe, Joshua Okello and Josiah Kavuma, from the Makerere University College of Computing and Information Technology (CIT), in Uganda, are the 3 students behind this concept. Their technology is based on the traditional pinnard horn.
• Cell-Life Cell-Life is a not-for-profit organisation, which provides technology-based solutions for the management of HIV (and other infectious diseases) in developing countries.
Through the appropriate use of mobile technology, Cell-Life has an extensive experience in delivering relevant solutions in both the civil and public health sectors, and is currently working in partnership with over 50 organisations.
- Technology Top 100 Award Winner 2006
- SANGONeT Web award for the Best Use of Mobile Technology 2009
- 2011 GSMA Awards Nominee
- 2011 mHealth Alliance and UN Foundation competition winner
- 2011 AfriComNet Winner
• MedAfrica Med Africa is a mobile app that provides symptom checkers, first-aid information, doctor & hospital directories. The product aims to make healthcare information affordable and accessible to Kenyans
The app developed by a Kenyan company, Shimba Technologies Ltd, in partnership with Nokia will allow owner of smartphone in Kenya and soon in other countries, to improve access to health information. Among other options the application will propose to locate health centers, contact and find doctors, search into drug dictionary, do self-diagnosis, schedule treatment reminder, etc…
Achievements Mbugua Niijhia, Business Developer of MedAfrica, was presenting the project at DEMO Fall 2011 in the Sillicon Valley.
Africa has a golden opportunity to catch up with the integration of technology into its healthcare. mHealth provides a platform that could help in circumventing a lot of issues around EHR or EPR and