“Making geography history,” “making distance meaningless,” “a hospital in your pocket,” “cost effective, need based healthcare for everyone, anytime, anywhere,” are all hyperbole—fertile imagination working overtime and hype. But is it possible that in my lifetime I may actually see this happen? Improbable, yes. Impossible, no.
According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India, by June 2014 243 million people in India will have internet access, with 75 million of those living in rural India. India will be second only to China in terms internet use. 130 million people in India now access the internet via smart phones. 50% of urban internet users access the internet daily. So is healthcare via a phone possible in an “emerging economy?” Can this be the equivalent of buying a pizza or booking a ticket online?
Encounters between doctors and patients have always been face to face. I had serious concerns about whether India was ready to receive healthcare via a phone. From October 2012 to April 2013, 1866 individuals from five states were interviewed, 31% from rural areas. 22% from rural areas had smart phones (46% in urban). Surprisingly 48% in rural India and 72% in urban areas had heard of mobile health (mHealth). I would love to do a similar study in the UK or the US.
Perhaps it will clearly show that we are no longer following the West, not even piggy backing, but just leap frogging. In 2011, when I carried out a smaller study at a world renowned temple of technology in Chennai, the awareness of mHealth was dismally low.
The most reassuring finding now was that 55% of respondents (urban and rural) showed a very strong intent to use mobile phones for healthcare, if available. Mobile network operators in India should wake up to this. Their role in this will be much more than offering mobile TV—Tendulkar not withstanding.
more at http://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2013/11/29/k-ganapathy-the-rise-of-internet-use-and-telehealth-in-india/