Half of all mHealth efforts worldwide involve telemedicine

Nearly 50 percent of the mHealth projects underway around the world involve telemedicine, according to a World Health Organization study, "mHealth: New Horizons for Health through Mobile Technologies."

Overall, mHealth is growing at an exponential rate around the world, the report finds, but not in any organized manner. One big problem: Virtually no one knows if any of the current mHealth projects are effective. While 83 percent of the 112 countries studied have mHealth projects ongoing, most of those are pilot projects with no results to speak of. Fewer than 12 percent of those nations are evaluating the success of their mHealth programs so far.

The elephant in the room, of course, is the timing of the report's release, scant weeks after the WHO indicated that cell phone radiation may cause cancer. There's no mention of radiation or user health concerns in the 112-page, largely laudatory report.

One interesting note: It's Europe (and the U.K., specifically), that tops the list as most mobile-enabled when it comes to healthcare--not the U.S. Africa has the least mHealth involvement, the report found.

A major divide remains between the way mobile health is used in industrialized nations versus in the developing world, according to the report. The most common use for mobile devices in high-income countries is as an appointment reminder (71 percent), the report notes. Globally, however, the two top mHealth applications are a little lower-tech--health call centers (59 percent) and emergency phone services (54 percent).

The report pushes hard for some sort of global infrastructure, including interoperability standards and open architecture, as mobile device development continues.

To learn more:
- read the UNFoundation's press release
- read the WHO report (.pdf)
- check out MobileHealthWatch's take
- get more detail at the Science Development Network's blog
- learn more from iHealthBeat's article