World Bank Day @ mHealth Summit – Part 3

Notes from the eDevelopment Thematic Group event World Bank Day @ mHealth Summit – mHealth from policy to implementation.


Session 3: Policy Perspectives on Using Mobile Technology for Better Health Outcomes

A key step in the process of mainstreaming and scaling-up mHealth is a sound eHealth and mHealth policy at the country level. The panelists in this session will present their views on developing a successful e/mHealth policy and provide examples of best practice and learning from around world.

  • Panel Discussion

Chair: Elizabeth J. Ashbourne, Lead, Global Health Information Forums, World Bank/Health Metrics Network


  • can mHealth policy be created without a eHealth policy?
  • are the policy priorities that are also connected to mHealth but lie in a different sector?
  • who should be at the table discussing mHealth services to push the frontiers?


Najeeb Al-Shorbaji, Director for eHealth, World Health Organization (via video conference from Geneva)

mHealth is an integral part of eHealth

  • Important: mHealth as part of eHealth plan, not an island

Expected: 45% of traffic on phone will be data

Some global concerns related to mHealth

Importance of mHealth

  • it’s used
  • it’s people-centered

Research literature: mHealth is here to stay

Currently WHO conducting second global eHealth survey

  • 75 countries
  • end of November
  • 15 of 20 African countries have eHealth initiatives

Lack of knowledge is #1 reason which prevent applications of mHealth, other reasons: operating costs, infrastructure, policy

Comparison Europe – Africa

  • different barriers in mHealth
  • no solutions can be just transferred

Issues in mHealth

  • sustainability
  • data exchange & interoperability
  • data security

Important points

  • Involving all stakeholders
  • We need to find solutions which work on different networks and work everywhere if possible
  • Multilingualism – not only English

WHO – big global eHealth initiative & we are happy to collaborate with other institutions


Alison Bloch, m-Health advisor, GSMA

Mobile vs. Internet

  • centralized & no competition vs. decentralized & everybody can put up their service
  • slow innovation vs. easy innovation
  • easy to identify people vs. anonymous

There are very many issues around health systems which include policy

How to engage public and private sector to work together in creating good regulations – fostering innovations

“Information makes markets work and markets improve welfare” – but also question of data ownership, privacy and security


Karl Brown, Assistant Director for Applied Technology, Rockefeller Foundation

Issue: ordering when policy comes into discussion

  • technology arrives first
  • then policy
  • then capacity building

Role for policy? How to foster innovation?

Over time mHealth, eHealth and traditional health information systems will merge

mHealth shouldn’ be a seperate policy sector, should be part of general health sector

Currently – eHealth councils are emerging in various countries

  • private and public organizations discussing about regulations

We need to have a sense what such systems cost in the long term

Should there be a standardization in eHealth policies or just a checklist?

  • Approaches to these policies is very varied in different countries
  • Even in different ministries

How to link national policy efforts to international policy efforts?


Patty Mechael, Earth Institute

What are we trying to achieve with this technology?

We should start to have guidelines to help countries figure out where to focus towards achieving the objectives concerning mHealth

Take a look at existing eHealth policies and see where the gaps are

The industry of mHealth around mServices has also to be taken into account


Q & A session


Security and legislation – mHealth presents a lot of issues, World Bank can help member countries to develop a frameworkfor that

How can we identify projects that have potential?


It’s important to develop a legislation to back up tele-medical services

We are ready to share our experience and knowledge about mobile & telemedical systems in rural areas


Is it necessary to have a seperate policy for eHealth – if eGovernment is already covering that sector?

D.C. Audience:

How do we align comercial with public policy interests? What is being defined in terms of economic cost-benefit analysis?

We are talking about two different policies – we must remember health policy and how to integrate eHealth and mHealth in the traditional health sector. What makes sense and what doesn’t?

How to target the appropriate level of policy?

How is the role of the academic sector?


Patty Mechael:

  • Security & flexible policies – example: Ghana was open to developing guidelines before policies
  • mHealth and mFinance should work together
  • mHealth vs. eHealth vs. eGovernment: you have to have the connections between all these and find out where to get economies of scale

Najeeb Al-Shorbaji:

  • What we are trying to do is to improve the health situation of people
  • We have to make sure the content in high quality, no matter if m- or e-
  • The “e” will disappear when “e” will be everywhere – the important thing is health
  • There is an economic value in ICT – time saving, quality data, … – we need consisten, evidence based approaches to prove that to the governments
  • Policy first or practice first? There are problems around eHealth – so we have to put in some guidelines, we can’t develop a policy for something we don’t know
  • We have to keep health data of people away from other data

Alison Bloch:

  • How to empower users / patients
  • Business models? Can we do good and do well? Larger topic – bringing many groups to the table and try to create such models

Karl Brown:

  • The future of eHealth is health
  • Pilot projects? The country should think of what the long term costs are, that may benefit sustainable projects
  • m-Pesa was informal system and evolved by itself
  • As much innovation in mHealth should be fostered – without constraining it with policies upfront

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World Bank Day @ mHealth Summit – Part 3
was published on 28.10.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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