Friday, July 21, 2017

Leveraging mobile device to improve healthcare

 

By Dr Frederick Haraka fharaka@ihi.or.tz

Use of mobile devices in health is increasingly becoming common and has shown a great success in either improving processes or outcomes.

The use of mobile technology in healthcare has grown alongside the growth of technology and the widespread network of mobile devices.

How?

Mobile devices such as mobile phones, tablets can be used to increase detection and notification of a particular disease. This is normally done in a surveillance system whereby every new case can be reported in real time to a central point.

This is relevant in an outbreak management and control of disease. Take an example of repeated cholera outbreaks in different places. The district medical officer and his/her team could easily be notified of a new case as soon as it is detected within the district through the use of mobile technology.

A clinician on site could simply upload relevant information on to a central database which can be accessed by different levels of decision makers. Furthermore, mobile technology could be used to monitor drug supply and stocks.

In rural areas where human resource for health remains a big challenge, mobile technology particularly mobile phones can be used as a platform for health education.

This is true in our setting where over 80 per cent of our population is subscribed to mobile phone use.

A good example is the current use of short message services for antenatal information by the ministry of health. This is very critical and commendable in supplementing existing mechanisms for sharing knowledge and information to expectant mothers and parents.

It is an obvious fact that, with our current state of human resource for healthcare such level of knowledge distribution would require a huge amount of efforts and number of healthcare workers had this platform not existed.

Fitness-tracker applications are increasingly becoming common for self-monitoring of one’s health. Such applications have shown to generally increase the interest of individuals on their own health.

Although, there are debates that, people who use them are generally those who are interested in not only their physical fitness and exercise but also their health in general.

The use of such applications has been shown to trigger a general interest in individual health and change in behaviour, example; diet.

Embracing it equally

The growing use of mobile technology in healthcare must not introduce disparity among the rich and the poor in terms of access to healthcare or health information.

This would mean the use of the simplest form , example, short message services which may not necessarily require smart devices.

In terms of hospital data security and safety of information will remain relevant as much as the technology itself.

Furthermore, ethical aspects of privacy over information particularly in hospital settings require careful thinking right from the beginning and throughout implementation.

We need to increase on how we reap benefits of advancement in mobile technology in healthcare. It is undoubted that in the near future, how information is captured, and processed will fully become electronic.

The mobile technology particularly the mobile phones provide suitable platform due to its easy access and availability. While this holds true, real benefits will depend on our willingness, strategy and speed to embrace changes.

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