Lessons learned from African mobile health
by Ivo Vegter
A few highlights of lessons the first world can learn from mobile health deployments in the developing world:
- SMS can double reach of community health workers.
- Plenty places in Africa have better broadband penetration than Texas.
- Complex, sophisticated apps don’t get used. Simplify them to something users are familiar with.
- People will use technology how they want, not how you intend. If you give them devices, expect them to use them for music videos. Use for healthcare will be organic, not how your international aid organisation planned it.
- Donated surplus devices from the first world, like incubators, break. Yet everyone can fix a car in the developing world. So build incubators out of Toyota Camry parts. It breaks? Just get spares at the local scrapyard.
- A $2 reward for reporting patient drug regimens by SMS for fourteen days dramatically improves adherence. The cost of non-adherence is rather more.
Interesting that mobile health has moved beyond feasibility studies and pilots, to organic projects that make an additive difference in specific circumstances. Even more interesting is that the angle of the South by South West #amhealth panel is on what the rich world, like the US, can learn from how the poor world, like Africa, delivers healthcare using mobile technology. The tide is turning. Africa leads.