With reported mobile subscriptions to be over 379 million, Africa is home to one of the fastest growing mobile markets in the world. This creates an enormous opportunity to leverage the mobile phone platform to revolutionize the delivery of healthcare to the entire population at a lower cost. Mobile devices can revolutionize several components of the health delivery system including-Collecting clinical and community health data, Monitoring patient vitals signs in real-time, linking health care workers to patients in real time, delivering healthcare information to practitioners, researchers, and patients. These are some of the ways developing countries are leveraging on mobile phones to bring healthcare to the masses.
Health check-up by text message – In a pilot programme, community health workers in Kenya are using mobile phone text messages to check on people living with HIV as a substitute for home visits.
In a Ghanaian village of Bonsaaso, mobile phones are used to contact health workers to help lower the maternal death rate. In 2006 mobile handset producer Ericsson teamed with mobile telecommunications firm Zain to install internet access and mobile phone coverage in several villages. They distributed free handsets to health workers and sold handsets to villagers for US$10 each. The government of Ghana is also using mobile phones to collect data to assess whether the poor are benefiting from the country’s National Health Insurance Scheme. In another project Women received answers to common ante- and post-natal questions as well as reminders about check-ups or vaccinations via mobile phones.
A pilot project in Cape Town, South Africa, used text messages to improve adherence to tuberculosis regimens.
A Dutch NGO used a text message quiz to test malaria knowledge in a fishing village in eastern Uganda. Again Personal digital assistants (PDAs) are being used to transmit disease surveillance data.
In Ethiopia, people can call a confidential hotline anonymously with HIV-related queries.
Republic of Congo
On a 24-hour toll-free medical hotline in the Republic of Congo, set up by the government, UNICEF and a mobile telephone network operator, health professionals respond to queries about paediatric emergencies.
In Nigeria, UNICEF is using text messages to track the distribution of some 63 million mosquito nets.