mHealth, eHealth credited with helping improve global public health

Availability of electronic health and mobile health services plays a major role in the delivery of public health services around the world, a newly released paper finds.

Reporting in the current issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research, Fordham University researchers say that information and communication technologies (ICT) "substantially improve a country's public health delivery." Accessibility to ICT is the most important factor, with eHealth and mHealth as the "key strategic applications," according to the authors.

The researchers examined ICT's impact on the adolescent fertility rate, child immunization coverage, detection of tuberculosis, life expectancy, and the adult mortality rate in five nations between 2000 and 2008. In general, after accounting for differences in national wealth, they found that the technologies were associated with improved life expectancy, tuberculosis detection and the child-immunization rate, and lower adolescent birth rates and adult mortality.

The report cites examples of how health information networks, telemedicine and health surveillance systems improved outcomes in developing countries, including low-cost electronic health records for HIV/AIDS patients in Kenya. They also looked at the role of public-health informatics in affecting health outcomes.

The researchers also note that applying health analytics to big data sets can bring even more understanding into the role ICT plays in global public health.

A study released last year by Cambridge University researchers concluded that mHealth devices and apps have significantly more reach than expected. The researchers identified public health as one of the three most intriguing new markets for mHealth, along with primary care and emergency care. They noted the role that cell phones and smartphones have played in disease-surveillance projects, such as gathering data on a Dengue fever outbreak in Brazil.

Also last year, the global research firm RNCOS projected that the mobile healthcare market would grow nearly 22 percent by 2014.

To learn more:
- read the research paper