EXISTING SOLUTIONS: mHealth in NCD interventions
Published by mHealth Alliance, UN Foundation and Pfizer, October 2013
MOBILE AND WIRELESS TECHNOLOGIES HAVE CHANGED THE WAY PEOPLE COMMUNICATE AND ACCESS INFORMATION AROUND THE WORLD, and there is growing interest in using mobile to improve health outcomes. This section will describe the strategies in which mHealth is being applied in the context of NCDs and how mobile solutions can be considered for the aging population. This section will also include examples of projects that are capitalizing on mHealth to prevent, treat and manage NCDs to minimize the growing disease burdens attributed to NCDs. Several of these interventions address older adults specifically, such as the Chinese Aged Diabetic Assistant (CADA) Project in China and projects implemented by ClickMedix, which are described in more detail later in this section (11, 12, 30-37). Rigorous trials have reported the benefits of text messaging, automated telephone monitoring, treatment reminders and self-care support for improving health outcomes related to chronic disease management (12). For NCD prevention, mHealth behavior change interventions in the form of mobile phone applications or text messaging have been implemented for encouraging individuals to exercise, improve their diets, or reduce tobacco use (38-40). For improving NCD treatment compliance, a systematic review of interventions demonstrated that adherence improved most in behavioral interventions that reduced the demands of dose schedules and that had monitoring and feedback (41). For NCD monitoring, wireless sensors, such as accelerometers, are being developed with easy access to Internet for sending data to clinicians or with algorithms for recognizing abnormal signs (35). Disease surveillance and home monitoring using wearable sensors, including wireless links between mobile phones and backend systems, will become more sophisticated with time, and particularly as aging interventions are delivered in the community. Using remote learning options, health workers can improve their education and training on age-related health conditions, as their access to learning modules, literature and the ability to call other health workers increases. Tracking medicines and supplies with mobile technologies also offers short-term benefits, as supplies can be monitored to improve limited access to and prevent stock-outs of essential hypertension, diabetes and cancer medicine. Long-term benefits include data generated by mobile technologies producing insights and facilitating discoveries in drug development and health care delivery.