The expansion of mobile and wireless technologies around the world and availability of affordable mobile devices has provided an unprecedented opportunity for more effective health-related information and healthcare delivery in emerging markets.
In 2014, 1 in 6 doctor consultations in the U.S. and Canada, were virtual visits supported by various mHealth products. In the emerging markes as well as large rural populations, the pressure of poverty and inaccessibility to the latest technology make effective e-healthcare delivery especially challenging.
At the same time, while the communications infrastructure in emerging markets improves, the possibilities to connect people living in low-resource settings to basic information they wouldn't otherwise have access to become far greater.
Use Case: Refurbished Phones are Used to Access Health Services in India
For example, amid a scarcity of doctors and public hospitals, India, with the second largest mobile telephone network in the world, relys on thesewith 950 million connections to reach places where health workers rarely go. While 70% of the Indian population lives in rural areas, only 2% of that is qualified medical doctors.
Most recently, India deployed a service in an effort to cut some of the world’s highest rates of maternal and child deaths by rolling out a campaign of voice messages delivering health advice to pregnant women and mothers.
Also, Facebook through Internet.org is working with mobile operators, content providers, and governments to provide mobile phone users free access to basic Internet services related to education, health, employment, communication, information and news.
Since its inception in 2014, Facebook has rolled out its service to 7 countries including India. Facebook and Reliance Communications are making the Internet available to millions of people in India via the launch of the Internet.org app and free basic services.
Reliance customers in six Indian states (Tamil Nadu, Mahararashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, and Telangana) will now have access to more than three dozen services ranging from news in local languages, maternal health, travel, local jobs, sports, communication, and local government information.
Subsidizing Access to Health Information through Refurbished Phones
Some examples where existing mobile network operators are subsidizing access to health information and country/regions relevant health programs, such as providing free access and engagement with apps on refurbished mobile phones:
- Malaria No More – Learn about malaria
- Socialblood – Register to donate blood
- Facts for Life – Find health and hygiene information
- BabyCenter & MAMA – Learn about pregnancy and children
Why Affordable Smartphones are Fueling the Leap in eHealth
In addition to government and carrier investment in ubiquitous deployment of faster networks, one of the driving factors of this evolution is availability of affordable, yet powerful mobile devices.
Today, cheap mobile phones are being deployed to provide affordable access to health information, education materials and even access to the physician or a nurse. Due to their proliferation and affordability, this is limited to feature phones and renewed mobile phones.
As such, eHealth has been restricted to basic web browsing and messaging (alerts, valuable information distribution, and call for help) for the most part.
The future of eHealth in developing markets, is looking to take advantage of renewed smartphones or affordable smartphones. Smartphones can deliver user experience and capabilities such as web browsing, multimedia messaging, video, and even mobile payment options.
The availability of sensors on these devices has a potential to open up new avenues of collecting the information and provide ways of proactively addressing the health needs.
Availability of these features pave an easier path to more advanced eHealth options, larger scale of personalization and personal touch. This starts with just the simple ability to access basic facts about diseases, potential outbreaks in specific areas and preventative methods.
Available services include messaging with the care provider, video session with the specialized physician and even mobile payment options for services provided.
The Impact of Refurbished Mobile Phones on mHealth
Great news is that Smartphones and other high quality renewed mobile phones are becoming more affordable and accessible. Just a year ago, smartphones were unattainable to most of the population, especially rural, in emerging markets due to their high price. However, here are some stats that show that this is changing rapidly.
- India is the fastest growing Smartphone market in Asia, with over 80 million shipments
- A plethora of new affordable smartphones are entering the market developed by local OEMs, i.e. Macromix in India.
- Furthermore, there is a large influx of renewed smartphones from developed countries harvested through mobile trade-in promotions. In 2014, in the US, 20 million mobile devices were traded, creating a healthy supply of renewed, yet powerful, iPhones, Samsung and other Android devices to serve low-resources population in emerging markets.
- Renewed mobile phones provide advanced capabilities at a very affordable price. Each of these devices have capabilities to support next wave of innovative eHealth options to those living in low-resource areas of the world.
This just the beginning of eHealth evolution and ensuring that those in low resource areas are connected, brought closer to each other, and to the information and qualified resources that can monitor and help address their basic and even more complex needs proactively. Will wearables be the next step in this evolution?
To learn more about refurbished mobile phones and how the trade-in process works, download this white paper.
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