Health 2.0 aficionados will know that I’ve been railing against the term “mobile health” or “mHealth” for about three years. Health 2.0 is simply the next thing in health technology, and will remain so (whatever that might be). Sure we have a definition, but it’s about what’s happening not how it happens. Calling something mHealth traps it to a device, in particular a cell phone, and ignores the rest of the ecosystem of the technology and culture that the cell phone is but one part of–that’s the concept we call “unplatforms.” mHealth is like talking about cooking in the kitchen and only talking about the fridge. It’s damn important but you need a stove, a sink and more to make it all work.So if you have a mHealth strategy, as Susannah Fox might quote LOLcats, “URDoin it Rong”.
However, the place where it makes sense to talk abut mHealth is where there are only cell phones, and that place is large tranches of the rural developing world. This came up for me twice yesterday. once in a long chat with DataDyne‘s Joel Selanikio who has a really cool product called EpiSurveyor that works not via SMS but via an app on simple phones and enables very cheap and easy data collection. The other was in a high profile announcement by Johnson & Johnson (a major funder of text4baby btw), which via its Babycenter subsidiary is introducing–with USAID, State Department & the mHealth Alliance– $10m program supporting the use of cell phones for maternal health in developing countries.
So for the health worker in the rural Bangladeshi village, lets have an mHealth strategy. For those of us in the developed world, we need an overall strategy to deal with data and applications–whatever devices they are using.