The Journal of mHealth Vol 2 Issue 4 (August) - Page 39

mHealth in Developing Countries Exhibit 1: Healthcare Workers Shortage (image source: Akter, S., Ray, P., “mHealth – an Ultimate Platform to Serve the Unserved.” IMIA Yearbook of Medical Informatics (2010). Print.) are still relentless threats to health in developing countries. At the same time, the prevalence of noncommunicable disease such as Diabetes and Cancer, normally concentrated in developed regions, are on the rise in developing regions. A lack of health information, a lack of access to healthcare, and a shortage of health workers are allowing these diseases to claim lives around the world. find healthcare innovations that are solving problems in countries that have far less access to healthcare than we do. The purpose of this paper is to explore the prospect of mHealth in developing nations, and to encourage healthcare innovators in developed nations such as the U.S. to use mHealth innovations in these regions as benchmarks for low-cost, accessible, available, and affordable solutions to the global healthcare problem. I will begin by defining mHealth as a subset of eHealth, with what I believe to be a more up-to-date definition based on examples drawn from mobile technologies as of 2015. This will be followed by a review of existing literature, highlighting examples of mHealth being used in various developing nations. Finally, this paper will discuss the concept of “reverse innovation” and discuss challenges (and opportunities) in scaling healthcare innovations to solve global health issues. The developing world suffers from a significant lack of access to healthcare and basic health services. The problem worsens when healthcare is needed but is either severely delayed or is not sought out at all and a population’s health worsens. Not only does this have a negative health outcome, but it also leads to increased costs and lost income. This is referred to as the “poverty trap,” where poverty leads to poor health, yet poor health maintains poverty.5 Access to healthcare is not the only problem. Geographic and financial availability, as well as the availability of health-related resources are also scarce in lowto middle-income nations. The shortage of health services and healthcare workers has become a challenge. Low income countries have on average 9 hospital beds per 10,000 people, half a doctor per thousand people, and less than one nurse per thousand people. These figures are 4-6 times less than health services availability in upper-middle- to high-income countries (Exhibit 1). Even when healthcare is accessible, it is often of low quality and is not tailored to individual patient needs. The Global Healthcare Crisis eHealth & mHealth In 2013, The Commonwealth Fund conducted a survey dealing with healthcare in 11 developed nations and found that the U.S. significantly lagged behind the ten other advanced countries when it came to the cost of healthcare, access to healthcare, health insurance, and overall affordability.3 The survey found that in 2013, 37% of American adults did not receive proper care because of cost. This number is extraordinarily high compared to the U.K. and Sweden (4-6%). Almost a quarter of Americans had trouble paying or could not pay their medical bills. The next highest country, France, only saw this in fewer than 16% of their population. The United States spends around $8,508 per person on health