Mobile phones: the next step towards healthcare delivery in rural India?

PLoS One. 2014 Aug 18;9(8):e104895. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0104895. eCollection 2014.

Abstract

Background: Given the ubiquity of mobile phones, their use to support healthcare in the Indian context is inevitable. It is however necessary to assess end-user perceptions regarding mobile health interventions especially in the rural Indian context prior to its use in healthcare. This would contextualize the use of mobile phone communication for health to 70% of the country's population that resides in rural India.

Objectives: To explore the acceptability of delivering healthcare interventions through mobile phones among users in a village in rural Bangalore.

Methods: This was an exploratory study of 488 mobile phone users, residing in a village, near Bangalore city, Karnataka, South India. A pretested, translated, interviewer-administered questionnaire was used to obtain data on mobile phone usage patterns and acceptability of the mobile phone, as a tool for health-related communication. The data is described using basic statistical measures.

Results: The primary use of mobile phones was to make or receive phone calls (100%). Text messaging (SMS) was used by only 70 (14%) of the respondents. Most of the respondents, 484 (99%), were willing to receive health-related information on their mobile phones and did not consider receiving such information, an intrusion into their personal life. While receiving reminders for drug adherence was acceptable to most 479 (98%) of our respondents, 424 (89%) preferred voice calls alone to other forms of communication. Nearly all were willing to use their mobile phones to communicate with health personnel in emergencies and 367 (75%) were willing to consult a doctor via the phone in an acute illness. Factors such as sex, English literacy, employment status, and presence of chronic disease affected preferences regarding mode and content of communication.

Conclusion: The mobile phone, as a tool for receiving health information and supporting healthcare through mHealth interventions was acceptable in the rural Indian context.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cell Phone
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Humans
  • India
  • Male
  • Physicians, Primary Care
  • Reminder Systems
  • Rural Population
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Text Messaging
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.