Recently, “mHealth” – or the use of mobile telecommunications tools to support increasingly mobile and wireless care delivery – has become a frequent topic for research and discussion in the global healthcare community. mHealth offers great promise: nearly 90 percent of the world’s population has mobile coverage. In many rural and under-resourced areas, a cell phone may be the only means for patients and clinicians to share information, or for minimally trained caregivers to call the nearest hospital for guidance.
To understand how this promise is translating to reality, this spring HITLAB researcher Tigest Tamrat and research chair Stan Kachnowski completed a comprehensive review of the focus, outcomes, and challenges of health interventions that leverage mHealth for maternal and newborn care across the globe.
Their analysis, published recently in Maternal and Child Health Journal, points to several projects that have successfully addressed emergency medical response, point-of-care support, health promotion and data collection with mHealth tools. But the limitations of these projects demonstrate that future programs will require a well-planned strategy to work within the local socio-cultural context, and overcome long-term funding constraints – especially after an initial sponsor concludes its support. Additionally, programs can run into challenges if they do not meet national goals for maternal and newborn care or when an overarching health policy does not exist.
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