mHealth is an offshoot of eHealth, which is the use of information and communication technology to aid healthcare processes. The word was coined by Robert Istepanian, implying “emerging mobile communication and network technologies for healthcare.” mHealth stands for mobile health and can be defined as the practice of medicine and healthcare services supported by mobile devices. The word is generally used for mobile communication devices such as mobile phones, tablet computers and PDAs, for providing health services and information, and to affect emotional states.

Why do we need mHealth ?

There is a growing need for mHealth to acquire, store, transport, process and secure the raw processed data in order to deliver better, more meaningful results. Myriad constraints in healthcare system today,like overpopulation, huge number of patients staying in villages and rural areas, poverty, increased disease burden, poor healthcare access and limited financial support for good medical infrastructure. Current penetration of mobile devices to a large segment of healthcare force and general population even in low income nations helps us to find the perfect solution in form of mHealth. The technology is user-friendly and simple to learn. Basic SMS functions and voice communications are backbone of this technology. Wireless communication can reach more people, much faster. It paves a way for faster access to healthcare, by the commonest of people, at more affordable prices.

Advantages of mHealth

  •  Rapid access to healthcare
  •  To provide health related information, especially to difficult-to-reach population.
  • Enhancing the ability to diagnose and track illnesses
  • To gather community and and clinical health data
  • Delivery of healthcare information to practitioners, patients and researchers
  • Timelier, more actionable public health information
  • Monitoring of vital signs
  • Nonstop provision of direct, high quality care
  • The ongoing medical education will have an expanded access
  • Even distant persons can be a part in health care matrix, which was impossible before.

The use of smartphones is increasing day by day in healthcare workers and patients. This will facilitate us to use number of health apps. It will help the doctor in treating long distance patients, faster diagnosis, telemedicine, and access to web based patient information and post visit patient surveillance.

The M Health summit 2014, Washington DC was the largest event of its kind, conveying the various ways in which mobile technology is and can transform healthcare for future generations. To sum it up, M health is a transformative force, given the high mobile phone penetration, to make a significant difference to public health and healthcare delivery.

Contributed by Dr. Rachita Narsaria, MD