Original Article on Forbes: Democratizing Healthcare Through Technology
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mHealth has the power to transform health in a range of sophistication. At the basic level, info updates via SMS from health services can be monumental. Informational text services, like Text4Baby and MobileMidwife, offer pivotal advice on maternal care on a weekly basis. Just like Kiberian folks who use SMS to report clean water, Indians and Sri Lankans are using mHealth tech to speed up public health reporting of Dengue Fever, a mosquito-borne disease. This type of awareness through basic SMS services can slow down diseases.
On a slightly more advanced level of the mHealth spectrum, clear smartphone cameras are powerful medical tools. ClickMedix software, for instance, allows you to get tele-consultations by sending photos, videos or even text messages. Indian health workers who have patients suffering symptoms of deafness, for instance, can use ClickMedix’s online platform to send health data to ENT surgeons who oversee the program and confirm the diagnosis and treatment plans. Similarly, in Tanzania, mHealth startup iDoc24’s mobile app First Derm diagnoses patients in isolated rural communities…replacing the alternative 5 hour bus ride to the closest hospital.
On the most advanced end of the mHealth spectrum, smartphones–which are also dropping in pricesand booming in developing countries at large—have sensors that can pick up health data from basically any physiological metric, like eye pressure and brain waves. These sensors have the capacity to manage chronic illnesses without paying a visit to your doctor.
The AliveCor heart monitor is one amazing mHealth innovation that allows you to perform routine heart check-ups. It’s an iPhone case with built-in electrosensors. All you have to do is press it against your chest and you can perform a routine heart check up. EyeNetra is another cool mHealth startup, bringing vision correction to the masses. It’s a plastic clip-on attachment for your smartphone that replaces the $10,000 auto refractor machine found in your optometrist’s office. Its on-screen visual test spits out a perscription…all for under $30.
This is Just the Beginning for mHealth
Of course, as with any ancient, government-regulated institution, innovation doesn’t come without bureaucratic hurdles. If you walk into any healthcare facility with an app idea in the US, you’ll likely get a few alarmed faces. The risks associated with losing or mixing patient data or misdiagnosis is far too high since mHealth is so new. It’s why there’s been some pushback for a centralized online database of healthcare records.
But there are indications that we’re moving forward. For instance, the FDA published a guideline document solely for developers who want to create medical mobile apps. Furthermore, the Affordable Care Act mandate incentivizes hospitals to not just treat patients but keep them healthy. Since mHealth reduces costs of office visits and equipment, global governments, hospitals and insurance companies have strong incentives to keep people healthy through mHealth preventative screening tools.