World Bank Day @ mHealth Summit – Aftermath

Yesterday was “World Bank Day @ mHealth Summit” in Washington DC, an event by the eDevelopment Thematic Group focusing on mHealth especially in the context of developing countries.

In the following the blog posts for the different sessions are listed.

There is also a World Bank Day @ mHealth Summit FlickR group, and Oleg Petrov took some videos and uploaded them to Youtube:

To track the lively Twitter discussion, look at the hashtag #mhealth09.

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mHealth – as a reminder – is defined as the “delivery of health care services via mobile communication devices” as it was also stated during the event.

The general consensus at the event was that mHealth has really great potentials, especially in developing countries. Obiageli Katryn Ezekwesili, Worl Bank Vice-President for the Africa Region already used strong words during the opening of the event – Africa can’t let this unique possibility mHealth and ICTs offer pass by.

In the first sessions of the event, the potential of mHealth was emphasised and the commitment of all the participating countries was underligned. Several projects were presented and the effects of mHealth systems were introduced – but only on an anecdotal base. The need to focus on the patient to create succesful solutions was stressed.

Later the question about policy was posed – at what time should the state create regulations, not to inhibit innovations? Here the need for introducing regulations previous to policies and for including the private sector was expressed. It was pointed out that probably in 20 years nobody would talk about mHealth or eHealth anymore – as it would be completely integrated in the regular health system. Therefore it was questioned if mHealth even needs a policy seperate from a general health policy.

The fourth session had “scaling up” as topic – an issue that isn’t limited to the mHealth sector alone, but to all eServices currently running only as pilote projects. It was claimed that in the mHealth sector the “developing” and the “developed” world can learn from each other. Other important claims in the discussion was the need for partnerships and standards to enable interoperablity of different systems.

In the fifth sessions of World Bank Day, several mobile technology systems already used in the health sector were presented. The primary technology for these systems seemed to be SMS. What the experiences and lessons learned of these projects showed in the first place was that the main focus of succesful projects always lies on the end users, the local community and their need, not on technology. Interoperability was also a big topic in this session, although it was put forward that the current funding mechanism with competitive grants lowers the willingness of organizations to share their data and experience.

While there were different opinions about the claim that mHealth can even help to fix broken health systems, the general benefits were proven in the last session of the event, where “measurable health outcomes” and evaluation of projects were picked as the central theme. Especially Rachel Glennerster of MIT Poverty Labs presented interesting and encouraging research results. Still, the need for scientific evaluations and objective research on outcomes of mHealth systems was expressed by many participants and should be addressed in the future.

My resumé – the event was very complete and covered most important aspects of mHealth. The speakers were well chosen, they came from different sectors and provided different viewpoints and opinions. However, in my opinion the focus was slightly too much on advocacy. I would have been even more content if the session on evaluation and lessons learned would have been a bit more elaborate. Still I got a feeling that mHealth has really great potential and I was fascinated by the various possible uses and applications. I’m sure there’s a lot more to come concerning mHealth in the next few years – and that especially developing countries will benefit a lot from these developments.


World Bank Day @ mHealth Summit – Aftermath
was published on 30.10.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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