mHealth has impacted the healthcare ecosystem in emerging countries and it can be expected to yield positive results in India too.
Technology has penetrated in almost every major industry and the impact of mobile technology on our day-to-day lives is growing every day. Smartphones & mobile apps have made our lives very easy and convenient. People can now access almost everything from their mobile device, such as banking; shopping; communicating; watching games, movies and videos; listening to music; surfing for news, travel information, etc.
Mobile technology is making huge inroads even in the healthcare space. Mobile Health or mHealth is about leveraging mobile and wireless devices to improve health outcomes.
According to some reports, India ranks among the top five countries for search terms like ‘mobile health’, ‘health apps’, ‘medical apps’ and mHealth’. This confirms that the Indian population is interested in mHealth. mHealth has impacted the healthcare ecosystem in emerging countries and it can be expected to yield positive results in India too.
mHealth can help in improving accessibility, reducing healthcare costs and increasing the healthcare workforce productivity in India. However, despite the numerous benefits, few hurdles are limiting the impact of mHealth in the Indian healthcare sector. Some of them are listed below.
Huge Volume & Disintegrated Market
In India, there is more than 1,65,000 mHealth apps available across the Playstore and Apple App store, with 40% of the apps having fewer than 5,000 downloads. Many apps are of unreliable origin, which may or may not work from both a clinical and technical perspective. Thus, there is no way for users to know which app can be trusted. Moreover, almost every apps review is provided by users. Hence, the ratings tend to differ according to individual perspective, rather than on clinical performance determined by clinical trials, evidenced-based outcomes or even professional reviews
Lack of Awareness
In a developing country like India, mHealth apps can and has made a huge difference in the healthcare scenario. The government has also launched a few mHealth apps for the benefit of the citizens. But, the lack of awareness is a huge drawback as prospective patients are still unaware of this new channel and benefits available at their fingertips.
Lack of Infrastructure
A country where there are many rural areas without electricity, mHealth apps is a far-fetched dream. Of the 121 crore Indians, 83.3 crores live in rural and lack of good infrastructure is a major challenge. The rural population cannot afford to buy a decent smartphone and also has very poor network connectivity. Thus, the accessibility of mHealth apps is very low.
The major investors and stakeholders in the healthcare industry are unable to appreciate the potential of mHealth. This is because there is no large-scale successful example in the Indian context. So, the resistance to change and adopt new technology is huge. Even the patient population loses interest if they have an unpleasant experience with a mHealth app. Moreover, a large segment of the population is only interested in fitness apps. The low expectations can also be attributed to a lack of understanding of the huge cost benefits.