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mHealth technologies have potential to eliminate disparities that exist in many minority communities

mobile value-added services (m-VAS) should lead the growth from the front in Indian Healthcare

mobile value-added services (m-VAS) should lead the growth from the front in Indian Healthcare

ICTpost Healthcare Bureau

This is an exciting time in health care. India needs to increase the accessibility of health care coverage, lower health care costs, increase consumer protections and improve the quality of care. In 2016, Telemedicine – remote diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of patients via videoconferencing or the Internet – was seen as a fast-emerging trend in India. Telemedicine was supported by exponential growth in the country’s information and communications technology (ICT) sector, and plummeting telecom costs. Several major private hospitals have adopted telemedicine services, including those that have developed Public-Private-Partnerships (PPPs), such as the AIIMS. There are approximately 150 telemedicine centres across the country, and the government has pledged support for hundreds more.

While there is no single solution that will eliminate health and health care disparities, advances in technology offer some exciting possibilities. Health IT and the use of electronic health records have the potential to transform the health care delivery system into one that is more patient-centered and coordinated, with improved quality and lowered costs. Primary care physicians could help address health disparities between black and white patients if they implement electronic health records, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. According to the study, 69% of blacks and 75% of whites who received care at primary care offices that used paper-based medical records had their blood pressure relatively under control. At physician offices that used EHRs, 75% of blacks and 78% of whites had acceptable blood pressure levels, the study found.

A booming healthcare insurance scenario is paving the way for hospitals to be able to afford use of technologies such as HIS and EMR. With the introduction of 3G, the possibilities of remote treatment and diagnosis of patients through mobile phones have been strengthened. In 2016, some telecom operators and value-added service developers are considering usage of mobile phones for diagnostic and treatment support, remote disease monitoring, health awareness and communication.
With the introduction of 3G ready devices like iPads, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Dell Streak etc., which have much bigger screen to facilitate content and application placement the mHealth space is poised to get even more expansive

Mobile technologies deliver new possibilities

Mobile communications technologies in health care, known as mHealth, currently are employed worldwide to address various health care challenges. Some of the most exciting and intuitive health care innovations are powered by mobile communications technologies.
Text4baby operates as a public-private partnership providing pregnant women and new moms with vital health information in both English and Spanish at no cost, and it recently was expanded to include additional messages alerting new mothers about insurance eligibility through the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

mHealth applications can help patients and health care professionals work together to manage diseases and health conditions. In-home monitoring devices can collect and transmit data to medical professionals and empower patients by helping them play an active role in their own health management. Most notably, this has been successful for diabetes patients who may need a little extra help with medication adherence.

Many new mHealth applications and devices are on the horizon. Some of the ingenious wireless technologies include:
 Wearable biosensors that can monitor blood pressure or respiratory rates and transmit the data directly to health care professionals;
 Advanced in-home monitoring systems that can allow elderly patients or individuals with disabilities to enjoy increased independence and quality of life; and
 Medicine bottles that remind patients to take their pills.

These mHealth technologies have tremendous potential to solve many health challenges, as well as to eliminate health disparities and barriers to care that exist in many minority communities, including AAs and NHPIs.

Technology access presents another barrier
Unfortunately, these technologies are not without their own challenges. Low-income communities and communities of colour often lack access to the high-speed broadband that supports these life-saving and enhancing technologies. Without a dedicated push to promote the adoption of new technologies in underserved communities, many may continue to be denied access to such technologies.

Given that the Internet, and access to it, will play an increasingly vital role in our daily lives going forward, we need to work to ensure that the existing infrastructure is being utilized in smart and efficient ways that will promote continued expansion, growth, and long-term investment. Sensible, modern approaches are needed to encourage investment and access to all Americans.

A White Paper released by PWC India painted a bleak picture for the mobile ecosystem in the coming 2-3 years. One feels that in the forthcoming years, mobile value-added services (m-VAS) should lead the growth from the front. Further, the m-VAS content developers should explore innovation opportunity from the service providers, especially for the content for rural India, as the citizens there would need information on health, education, weather, market and various policies and schemes of the government that would benefit them. It would definitely take few years to saturate this eco-system as the content space is very large and diverse, due to language, culture, knowledge-base and other specificities.

Public and private sectors must work together to ensure that these vital technologies do not fail us and to pave the way for new innovations. This issue will require meaningful outreach to diverse and underserved communities and providers, as well as creative solutions and pioneering new technologies. editor@ictpost.com

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