mHealth is the leverage of Mobile for Health
NOTE: It is not a subset of eHealth, in the same way that the TV is not a subset of the Cinema. Mobile has 8 (already identified) unique attributes as the newest mass media and these can be leveraged to empower patients and Healthcare service delivery (click here to check out an example of each).
At least once a day I get asked “what is mHealth”. Despite me thinking it’s pretty simple, there seem to be a variety of different ideas on this which are illustrated perfectly by the rambling definition you’ll find at Wikipedia:
Mobile eHealth or mHealth broadly encompasses the use of mobile telecommunication and multimedia technologies as they are integrated within increasingly mobile and wireless health care delivery systems and is part of a movement towards citizen-centered health service delivery. Mobile technologies by nature lend themselves to more decentralized health service delivery. Although Ministries of Health in low and middle income countries and policy makers are eager to explore the use of mobile phones and other ICT to promote health, the lack of a comprehensive model, knowledge base, and published data on the health benefits poses significant barriers.
The most widely cited and definitive definition is by Istepanian et al. as ‘emerging mobile communications and network technologies for healthcare.’
Other later citations include Bardram et al. as m-health is focused on embedded wireless devices that track health-related parameters:
“The recent advances in information and communication technologies (ICT) enable technically the continual monitoring of health-related parameters with wireless sensors, wherever the user happens to be. Small, low-power sensors can, in principle, be embedded in almost anything in our surroundings: furniture, vehicles, wearable devices, and even clothes. Mobile phones or personal digital assistants (PDAs) with wireless networking capabilities may serve as gateweays that process, store, and transfer measured parameters to clinicians for further analysis or diagnosis. This technology trend, also called mHealth (mobile health), is already visible in the market.”
To my mind these are invalid, Robert Istepanian’s (pictured above N.B. Please read comment from Prof Robert Istepanian posted in the comments below) definition cannot hold water because it suggests Mobile Communications and Network Technologies are “emerging” – after 30 years the newest Trillion $ industry is a long way from that, and the use of mobiles in Health are also familiar with 99% of users.
The talk of mHealth being about small wireless sensors and Body Area Networks (BANs) is something that all too often reflects the desires of technologists and researchers and has been “about to happen” since the days of PDA’s. But the Healthcare Industry has a long way to go before it even wakes up to the power of the mobile phone and network as a sensor:
and as a means of delivering valuable Healthcare Information:
…before we even start being able to understand the contributions these allied devices will make.
*** UPDATE: 18 June 2014 ***
Check out this 40 minute Introduction to mHealth presentation that I gave at the Digital Health Summit 2013 in Istanbul: