mHealth improves care for urban poor populations

Mobile healthcare technology used to monitor patients in poor urban areas can improve their access to care while reducing costs, concludes a study commissioned by the New Cities Foundation, an international non-profit organization.

In an 18-month pilot project undertaken in Brazil's Santa Marta, an underserved community of Rio de Janeiro, a clinic was provided with a backpack kit with portable diagnostic tools to track blood pressure, glucose levels, blood oxygenation, heart rate and other health measurements during weekly house calls for 100 elderly patients with chronic diseases and mobility problems. The backpack kit allowed clinic staff to provide fast and accurate on-site tests that led to improved treatment of high blood pressure, diabetes and other ailments.

"Equipped with the backpack, clinic staff could walk up the community's narrow streets and perform in-home visits and detect up to twenty different diseases within minutes," according to an announcement. "This increased efficiency led to high satisfaction among healthcare workers and patients alike."

As a result of this mobile pilot, Brazil's public health system was able to save hundreds of thousands of dollars due to enhanced patient monitoring that led to better management of diseases. More than $200,000 in savings was attributed to avoidance of kidney failure, more than $135,000 was saved as a result of reduced hospitalizations for patients with cardiovascular conditions, and more than $32,000 was saved due to better management and prevention of strokes.

"At a time when the global urban population is aging rapidly and going through a shift from communicable to chronic diseases, our project shows the great potential benefits that [mHealth] technology can bring to urban healthcare globally," said Mathieu Lefevre, Executive Director of the New Cities Foundation, in a written statement. "We should not wait for this kind of innovation to slowly trickle down to the bottom of the pyramid. This study shows that we can and should start where better access to healthcare is needed most and we should do so using the best available technology."

Poverty is an important barrier to positive health outcomes globally. Nevertheless, according to a recent FierceMobileHealthcare article on the topic, while developing countries have been using mobile phones, miniature laptops and diagnostic devices in the health sector for years now, there are many issues that hamper the provision of mHealth systems in these environments. Healthcare providers should consider several factors for designing successful mHealth projects in such areas.

To learn more:
- read the report
- read the announcement