mHealth in Sub-Saharan Africa

Int J Telemed Appl. 2013;2013:482324. doi: 10.1155/2013/482324. Epub 2013 Dec 4.

Abstract

Mobile phone penetration rates have reached 63% in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and are projected to pass 70% by 2013. In SSA, millions of people who never used traditional landlines now use mobile phones on a regular basis. Mobile health, or mHealth, is the utilization of short messaging service (SMS), wireless data transmission, voice calling, and smartphone applications to transmit health-related information or direct care. This systematic review analyzes and summarizes key articles from the current body of peer-reviewed literature on PubMed on the topic of mHealth in SSA. Studies included in the review demonstrate that mHealth can improve and reduce the cost of patient monitoring, medication adherence, and healthcare worker communication, especially in rural areas. mHealth has also shown initial promise in emergency and disaster response, helping standardize, store, analyze, and share patient information. Challenges for mHealth implementation in SSA include operating costs, knowledge, infrastructure, and policy among many others. Further studies of the effectiveness of mHealth interventions are being hindered by similar factors as well as a lack of standardization in study design. Overall, the current evidence is not strong enough to warrant large-scale implementation of existing mHealth interventions in SSA, but rapid progress of both infrastructure and mHealth-related research in the region could justify scale-up of the most promising programs in the near future.

Publication types

  • Review