A survey has found “very few” formal outcome evaluations of mobile health in low-income countries. While there is a “vast” documentation of what it terms project process evaluations, the survey found few studies demonstrating an impact on clinical outcomes, according to the results published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
In addition, the survey observes a lack of mobile health apps and services operating at scale in low- and middle-income countries. Most commonly, mhealth is made up of SMS and phone reminders for follow-up appointments, healthy behaviour and data gathering.
The survey was written by academics from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UCL and the Malaria Consortium, a non-profit organisation that fights the spread of the disease.
The aim of the research is to see how mobile devices and services can support community health workers in the developing world.
However, despite its findings, which are similar to another recent report which cited the need for more trials in low and middle income countries, the review concludes there is “great potential” to improve health services through the use of mobile technology. Key to this goal is partnerships between governments, technologists, NGOs, academia and industry, it says.
The review also makes the point that mhealth needs to move from pilots to national scalable programmes, another familiar refrain. But it says there is “promising evidence” that mobile phones can be used to deliver healthcare.