Report: mHealth could save more than 1 million lives in Africa

Mobile healthcare in developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa could help save as many as one million lives over the next five years, according to a new report from mobile industry organization GSMA in collaboration with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The increased adoption of mHealth solutions could help save lives across the entire healthcare delivery chain, says the report, which credits the greater use of mobile connectivity in the fight against malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS/HIV and perinatal conditions in developing countries in Africa which account for 3 million deaths annually.

"Many of these deadly conditions are relatively simple to treat, prevent or contain," states the report. "SMS reminders to check for stock levels at the health centers have shown promising results in reducing stock-outs of key combination therapy medications for malaria, TB and HIV. For HIV patients, simple weekly text reminders have consistently shown higher adherence amongst the patients."

According to the report, mHealth could help control tuberculosis mortalities by ensuring treatment compliance through simple SMS reminders. Delivering mobile-assisted awareness to pregnant mothers and traditional birth attendants could reduce perinatal and maternal mortality by 30 percent, and pilot programs that track mobile-usage patterns have been very successful in predicting disease outbreaks and in increasing malaria reporting adherence from 22 percent to 93 percent.

Among the mHealth successes cited by the report:

  • SIMpill, a medication management system that detects non-compliance of medication regimes, uses SMS reminders that showed 94 percent compliance for a TB trial and a 92 percent cure rate
  • TxtAlert in South Africa supports HIV patients and their healthcare workers on Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) compliance, with missed appointment rates declining from 27 percent to 4 percent
  • Since 2011, HP in collaboration with Positive Innovation for the Next Generation (PING), the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), and mobile network provider MASCOM have successfully rolled out a mobile-enabled program that reduced government response times to malaria outbreaks from four weeks to three minutes

When it comes to developed countries, the report finds that mHealth could save $400 billion in healthcare costs over the next five years. Another recent report predicts that remote monitoring technologies will save nearly $200 billion by managing chronic diseases in the U.S. over the next 25 years.

Proactive mobile-based care for patients with sudden health incidents can reduce the number of primary and emergency visits by 10 percent, according to the report. Mobile technology can also be used for home monitoring, thereby reducing the need for face-to-face consultations, which will not only help generate elderly care savings of up to 25 percent but will also improve patient quality of life.

In addition, healthcare providers can benefit via mobile access to electronic health records which can reduce the administrative burden of hospitals by 20 percent to 30 percent, the report states.

To learn more:
- read the PricewaterhouseCooper report