What you need to know about the mHealth revolution that’s taking hold in India

With a large penetration of mobile phones in the country—currently more than 900 million cellular phone subscriptions—India’s medical community is realizing that the adoption of mHealth will play a key role in improving access and quality of healthcare in the country. mHealth, short for mobile health, is the use of mobile phones, tablets, and other technology to support or enhance the delivery of healthcare.

Countries such as China, Brazil, and the United States have all turned to mHealth in varying degrees. There are significant differences in mHealth adoption among emerging and developed nations. A recent survey—“Emerging mHealth: Paths for growth”—from PricewaterhouseCoopers sought to assess the climate for the utilization of mHealth in 10 developing and developed countries.


Neelesh Bhandari, MD“Ninety-two percent of physicians in India expected a noticeable effect of mHealth within 3 years, and 52% said they believe that the widespread adoption of mHealth is inevitable.”
-Neelesh Bhandari, MD, physician entrepreneur focused on communication technology in healthcare and author of the blog Digital Medicine


The extensive study included a patient survey with more than 1,000 respondents, a physicians’ survey with 433 physicians, and a payer survey with 345 respondents. The study shows that expectations are[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]…

[/s2If][s2If is_user_logged_in()] high for mHealth from patients, providers, and payers. Consumers actually are ready to adopt mobile health more quickly than the health industry is ready to adapt.

Key Point: mHealth, short for mobile health, is the use of mobile phones, tablets, and other technology to support or enhance the delivery of healthcare. Telephonic consultations, administrative communication, and remote patient monitoring are the most popular uses of mHealth in India, and electronic health records are gaining fast in importance. In a recent survey, 60% of Indians said they believe that widespread adoption of mHealth services is inevitable in the near future.

Here are a few key findings from the study relevant to India:

    • India and China scored the highest in openness and awareness of mHealth. China shows higher use of mHealth at present compared with India, though the environment in India was believed to be the most encouraging of all the countries studied. Of the 10 countries in the study, Indians expect mHealth to have the greatest impact on healthcare. 60% of Indians surveyed felt that widespread adoption of mHealth services is inevitable in the near future.

 

    • Telephonic consultations, administrative communication, and remote patient monitoring are the most popular uses of mHealth in India. Remote access to electronic health records (EHRs) is gaining fast in importance.

 

    • 92% of physicians in India expected a noticeable effect of mHealth within 3 years. Also, 52% of physicians in India said they believe that the widespread adoption of mHealth is inevitable.

 

    • Patients in emerging markets such as India and China are more willing to pay for mHealth than their counterparts in developed countries.

 

    • Despite optimism and desire, India scored the lowest on the technology front. Technology was found to be most mature in Denmark and the United States.

 

    • The main drivers identified for patients using mHealth in India were: to reduce healthcare costs, improve access to providers, and the ability to obtain information.

 

    • The main barriers in patient adoption of mHealth in India were: cost, lack of relevant applications, and doctors who are unwilling.

 

    • The main drivers for physician use of mHealth in India were: lowered overall cost of care for patients, ability to reach previously unreachable patients, and saving time otherwise spent in administrative functions.

 

    • The main barriers in physician adoption of mHealth in India were lack of interest and unavailability of information about mHealth.

 

Of all stakeholders, physicians are generally the most reluctant to adopt mHealth. In the study, 60% of active users of mHealth said that patients and technology companies are more interested in mHealth than physicians.

Though Indian physicians seem more amenable to the adoption of mHealth compared with physicians in most other countries, we still have a long way to go. Having doctors join the mHealth revolution will be the key to ensuring optimum benefits for patients. And that, my friends, is going to be a tough task.

What do you think of the mHealth revolution? Will it change healthcare in India? Please share your thoughts in the “Comments” section on this page.

Source: PriceWaterhouseCoopers Web site. Emerging mHealth: Paths for growth. Available at: http://www.pwc.com/en_GX/gx/healthcare/mhealth/assets/pwc-emerging-mhealth-full.pdf.

Neelesh Bhandari, MDDr. Bhandari is a physician entrepreneur focused on communication technology in medicine and healthcare. He is based in the New Delhi area of India and serves as Chief Consulting Officer of Digital MedCom Solutions. Dr. Bhandari also runs the blog Digital Medicine, which is focused on “Ensuring optimum use of technology in medicine.”

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