Guest post by Aman Kwatra, Research Fellow, HITLAB India, IIT Delhi DMS 2010

Earlier this month, HITLAB Research Chair Stan Kachnowski and I prepared a paper for the 2011 International Conference on eGovernance (ICEG) in Ahmedabad. We focused on a quickly evolving area of innovation in India: eHealth and mHealth programs designed to improve healthcare delivery in this country, particularly in the area of maternal and child health.

We looked at three mHealth projects for our study: the Manthan project, Project Aarogyam, and the Rohtak Administration Immunization SMS initiative, focusing on the issues that face the government in implementing these projects and the steps government can take to promote the initiatives. We also assessed the critical factors for success of these projects and the key learnings from them.

One of the primary takeaways of this research is the inherent simplicity of technology used in these approaches. Methods such as interactive voice response systems (IVRS), SMS-based systems implemented through an educational, proactive, reactive and interactive approach in Project Aarogyam was identified as the key factor for its success. These technologies have a very low cost per unit, and are simple to implement, so their diffusion rates are high.

mHealth (also known as mobile governance in India) is poised to play a crucial role in the Indian healthcare system due to the sheer penetration of mobile technology. At the same time, the onus lies on the government to develop policies and infrastructure that will encourage such initiatives by both public and private entities. Government should be careful and balanced in its policies to act as an enabler and facilitator rather than a controller as it may have an adverse effect on these initiatives.

ICEG showcased various innovations from across the country. Sai Infosystems introduced its Vfone for health care applications, which is poised to enable rural telemedicine and teleradiology. Doctors or clinicians can transmit radiographic pictures and videos directly through the Vfone to a specialist for consultation. Because Vfone is inexpensive, transportable and does not require infrastructural establishments, it has the potential to make a real impact on rural telemedicine.

Other interesting applications of technology included use of cloud computing in healthcare to share resources and information to build capabilities. This may be of immense use in tracking outbreaks or epidemics, and for telemedicine. 

For more information or a copy of the paper, please contact