Assessing the impact of mHealth interventions in low- and middle-income countries--what has been shown to work?

Glob Health Action. 2014 Oct 27:7:25606. doi: 10.3402/gha.v7.25606. eCollection 2014.


Background: Low-cost mobile devices, such as mobile phones, tablets, and personal digital assistants, which can access voice and data services, have revolutionised access to information and communication technology worldwide. These devices have a major impact on many aspects of people's lives, from business and education to health. This paper reviews the current evidence on the specific impacts of mobile technologies on tangible health outcomes (mHealth) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), from the perspectives of various stakeholders.

Design: Comprehensive literature searches were undertaken using key medical subject heading search terms on PubMed, Google Scholar, and grey literature sources. Analysis of 676 publications retrieved from the search was undertaken based on key inclusion criteria, resulting in a set of 76 papers for detailed review. The impacts of mHealth interventions reported in these papers were categorised into common mHealth applications.

Results: There is a growing evidence base for the efficacy of mHealth interventions in LMICs, particularly in improving treatment adherence, appointment compliance, data gathering, and developing support networks for health workers. However, the quantity and quality of the evidence is still limited in many respects.

Conclusions: Over all application areas, there remains a need to take small pilot studies to full scale, enabling more rigorous experimental and quasi-experimental studies to be undertaken in order to strengthen the evidence base.

Keywords: health systems; interventions; low- and middle-income countries; mHealth; mobile data.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Phone*
  • Community Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Computers, Handheld*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Telemedicine / methods