mHealth: Delivering Better Care in Times of Budget Constraints

News 12 July 2012

Vodafone presented today the Insights Guide “Evaluating mHealth adoption barriers: politics and economics”.

The report gathers articles from academia as well as case studies from European countries and across the world (India, Australia, Italy, South Africa, UK and US). For example, it is estimated that in UK only telehealth can deliver 20% reduction in emergency admissions, 14% reduction in bed days and 8% reduction in tariff costs. Another case study shows that in Italy the daily cost of home-based care - empowered by telemedicine - is €180 compared to €700-1000 in hospital.

The Insights Guide also highlights that while “the potential reward for successful implementation of mHealth projects is high, the barriers to overcome are also significant”. Also for this reason, at the moment, “only a quarter of countries worldwide have drawn up a national telemedicine policy or strategy” (WHO Review 2010).

One of the main barriers are the current funding models, “strongly geared towards preventing new models of delivering healthcare”, like telemedicine. The report suggests that one solution to overcome this barrier might be the introduction of “outcome-based reimbursement” (e.g. payment for readmission rate).

Another barrier is the scale of the projects: while coping with local needs, healthcare provision models need “to avoid costly duplications” and be interoperable. For this reason, the report indicates that there is a need of collaboration between all the stakeholders involved in healthcare provision.

The Insights Guide also proposes 6 key recommendations to Governments who want to take full benefit from mHealth applications. First, to strengthen their eHealth policies by including mHealth policy developments. Second, when planning broadband deployment, they should take into account the potential needs of mHealth technologies. Third, consider interoperability issues from the outset. Fourth, make electronic health records accessible from mobile. Fifth, strike the right balance between regionalization of healthcare and scale, avoiding duplicated efforts. Sixth, focus on patient-empowerment through use of mHealth.