More evidence needed for scale up of mobile device technology in health

Feb 12, 2013

Despite the hundreds of pilot studies using mobile health—also known as 'mHealth'', which describe medical and public health practice supported by mobile devices— there is insufficient evidence to inform the widespread implementation and scale-up of this technology, according to international researchers writing in this week's PLOS Medicine.

There are over 6 billion mobile phone subscribers and 75% of the world has access to a mobile phone leading , researchers, and national governments to be optimistic about the opportunities has to offer. However, the authors led by Mark Tomlinson from Stellenbosch University in South Africa, question the evidence supporting the scale up of mHealth.

The authors say: "In some ways, mobile technology has a magical appeal for those interested in global public health over and above the advantages that have been proven with good evidence."

They continue: "Part of this magical promise is that mobile technologies may solve one of the most difficult problems facing global health efforts—that of structural barriers to access."

However, according to the authors while enthusiasm for effective mHealth interventions in sub-Saharan Africa is high, little is known about their efficacy or effectiveness.

They say: "The current wave of mHealth interventions are the equivalent of black boxes. Each small entrepreneur or researcher includes whatever bells and whistles that their funding allows in an attempt to demonstrate efficacy."

The authors argue that potential designs such as multi-factorial strategies, randomized controlled trials, and data farming may provide this evidence base and make several recommendations for the way forward.

The authors also argue that major donors could invest in creating a robust set of standards and a platform that can inform and support local adaptation of mHealth applications. The standardized features of the platform could then be available to all local technicians committed to improving the of their local communities.

The authors conclude: "We also believe a global strategy for programmatic examination of the optimal features of the mobile platforms is needed."

Explore further: Hand out money with my mobile? I think I'm ready

More information: PLoS Med 10(2): e1001382. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001382

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Africa turns to cellphones for better health

Mar 30, 2011

The text message arrives with life-saving discretion: a neutral "see you at the clinic tomorrow" to remind patients to pick up a fresh batch of anti-AIDS drugs.

How text messaging can help control malaria

Feb 21, 2012

In this week's PLoS Medicine, Dejan Zurovac and colleagues from the Kenya Medical Research Institute/Wellcome Trust Research Program, Nairobi, Kenya discuss six areas where text messaging could improve the delivery of hea ...

Recommended for you

Hand out money with my mobile? I think I'm ready

Apr 17, 2014

A service is soon to launch in the UK that will enable us to transfer money to other people using just their name and mobile number. Paym is being hailed as a revolution in banking because you can pay peopl ...

Quantenna promises 10-gigabit Wi-Fi by next year

Apr 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —Quantenna Communications has announced that it has plans for releasing a chipset that will be capable of delivering 10Gbps WiFi to/from routers, bridges and computers by sometime next year. ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

Apr 16, 2014

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.

Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

Apr 16, 2014

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.

Dish Network denies wrongdoing in $2M settlement

Apr 15, 2014

The state attorney general's office says Dish Network Corp. will reimburse Washington state customers about $2 million for what it calls a deceptive surcharge, but the satellite TV provider denies any wrongdoing.

Netflix's Comcast deal improves quality of video

Apr 14, 2014

Netflix's videos are streaming through Comcast's Internet service at their highest speeds in the past 17 months now that Netflix is paying for a more direct connection to Comcast's network.

User comments : 0

More news stories

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.

Researchers uncover likely creator of Bitcoin

The primary author of the celebrated Bitcoin paper, and therefore probable creator of Bitcoin, is most likely Nick Szabo, a blogger and former George Washington University law professor, according to students ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...