Limited resources and a large percentage of the population living in remote areas have led to a large healthcare gap in India. At the same time, mobile communication has exploded with 900 million Indians now having access to some form of mobile connection. India’s healthcare system is ripe for innovation and Mobile Health (mHealth) has a potential to overcome healthcare challenges around access, cost, and quality. mHealth is the practice of medicine and public health supported by mobile devices
Telcos have a unique role to play in the delivery of healthcare in India. In addition to basic public health issues, hospital and physician supply is limited in rural areas. The vastly underserved healthcare market, combined with high mobile phone penetration and rapidly growing smartphone adoption creates ideal conditions for mHealth adoption. From offering high-quality network access to managing end-to-end service delivery, telcos can facilitate the effective delivery of mHealth services in multiple ways, including:
- Guaranteeing quality of service
- Providing hosted infrastructure services
- Delivering managed security services
- Managing integration complexity
There are more than 500 mHealth projects operating globally, more than 50 in India1. Piramal E-swasthya2 is an example of such a project that enables setting up of a tele-clinic in remote areas supported by an e-diagnosis module and a call center. WHO carried out a global survey in 2009 in 114 member states and majority of member states (83%) reported offering at least one type of mHealth service3. The time and cost efficiency, coupled with better health management and information flow are contributing to the growth of mHealth.
The graph below indicates the current use of mHealth in delivering services for information, enabling and transformative healthcare in India to various income groups. Information services, generally offer one-way communication or message-board style question and answer services. Enabling services start to function as substitutes for traditional care and transformative services enable the collection of objective healthcare data.