The definition of mHealth:

mHealth is the leverage of Mobile for Health

Mobile: the newest Mass Media
Health: The state of complete physical, mental and social well-being

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:

43 thoughts on “The definition of mHealth:

    1. Hi,

      I am writing to clarify and also to repudiate the comments from the author on this blog on the m-health definition

      When I first defined m-health in my papers published in the IEEE Transaction Information Technologies in Biomedicine( That clearly the author did not read.). This was first in 1999(as unwired e-med) and then in 2003 ( as m-health). The ‘m-health’ wording and terminology used then was not known or used prior to that leading academic papers and publications and to that date to the best of my knowledge.
      The word concerning the ’emerging mobile and network technolgies’ in my original definition was to infer to then what was yet in the development phases and yet to be standarised and commercialised of the 3.5G and other beyond 3G technologies and networks ( not cellular) technolgies ( such as the current WiMAX) networks for use in healthcare applications. Where as by that date (in the late 1990’s and eary 2000’s) the phone technologies used commercially would have been of GMS/GPRS technologies that were not compatible to different m-health data applications that we see today.

      The author should have been aware of these facts and information before writing such comment(s) on this blog and should have read my papers first before posting any such misleading information.

      I request that the author to rectify and withdrew his comments on my definition on m-health.

      Thank you

      Robert S H Istepanian
      Professor
      Kingston University, London

      1. Hi Robert,

        “I am writing to clarify and also to repudiate the comments from the author on this blog on the m-health definition”

        There is no untruth to my post. It is merely my opinion and I’ve linked to my source (Wikipedia).

        “When I first defined m-health in my papers published in the IEEE Transaction Information Technologies in Biomedicine( That clearly the author did not read.)”

        I have read and have copies of the vast majority of work in this area (including yours) although I can’t speak for the author of the wikipedia page. For readers here is the link to where Roberts published articles can be found: http://bit.ly/bVuNlj

        “This was first in 1999(as unwired e-med) and then in 2003 ( as m-health)”

        In the definition I gave above I specifically state that I think mHealth is not a “a subset of eHealth” (or “unwired e-med” as you prefer to refer to it).

        “beyond 3G technologies and networks ( not cellular) technolgies ( such as the current WiMAX) networks”

        Not sure what you mean by this. WiMax is most certainly a 3G technology according to the ITU: http://www.wirelessweek.com/Archives/2007/10/WiMAX-is-3G/

        “The author should have been aware of these facts and information before writing such comment(s) on this blog and should have read my papers first before posting any such misleading information”

        As stated above I have read and have copies of your papers, in fact I recall you giving them to me in 2005 after a meeting with your colleagues at Brunel University. In my article I have quoted (and linked to) your name/suggested statement taken directly from the Wikipedia entry for mHealth. If these are inaccurate please state this. If you would like me to edit the wikipedia entry for you I would be happy to oblige.

        “I request that the author to rectify and withdrew his comments on my definition on m-health”

        As the definition still remains on Wikipedia (a resource that is many many more times popular than my inconsequentially small blog) I think it’s only fair to quote it as that’s what most people would encounter first if searching for a definition on mHealth – which is what this blog is intended to address.

        In light of your interest in addressing this concern I have added a comment to the original post referring to these comments and your dispute.

        If I can be of further help please don’t hesitate to let me know.

        PS. writing PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE on a comment here will have it acknowledged as such.

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