M-Health Will Improve Access To Healthcare

BMI Core View: Telecare will generate significant revenue in both developed and emerging markets. Growth in the number of mobile phone users and wireless subscribers, and advances in the innovative application of communication technology will transform the delivery of healthcare across the world, providing significant opportunities to companies looking to invest in the telecare sector.

BMI defines telecare as the use of mobile and internet technology to provide clinical care and non-clinical services such as health education, disease surveillance and drug monitoring. It is our view that a combination of factors - including the continued growth in demand for and delivery of healthcare, the continued growth in mobile and broadband subscribers and penetration rates and the growing sophistication of the infrastructure of the communication networks - are driving new opportunities in telecare across the globe.

At the launch of a mobile learning initiative between the University of Botswana School of Medicine and Orange Botswana, Phillippe Baudin, CEO of Orange Botswana stated that m-health offers the convenience of remote interactions between patients and medical practitioners, as well as the ability to monitor patients in a non-intrusive way. In June 2013, the Botswana Ministry of Health signed a memorandum of understanding with Orange Botswana to support the use of telemedicine in remote areas of the country. Under the three-year agreement, Orange will support the ministry with telecommunication equipment and internet connectivity.

Unlike developed countries where the transition to m-health is due to the need to improve health surveillance and ease the burden on health institutions, the impetus for m-health in Botswana is driven by the country's lack of healthcare services. In 2013, per-capita health expenditure in Botswana reached US$437, which is higher than the average of US$174 in Africa, but low on a global level. Out of 167 countries, Botswana is ranked 86 th in terms of per-capita health expenditure. Low spending on health in Botswana and other low income countries has led to a series of problems, including lack of health infrastructure and medical professionals, inability to procure sufficient quantities of drugs and the widespread use of counterfeit medicines. The situation is made worse by the fact that approximately 40% of the population in Botswana resides in rural regions, where there is even lower access to healthcare.

Significant Rural Population
Botswana Population Demographics

A key factor for successful m-health implementation is the number of mobile phone subscribers in the country. Of the 52 African countries, Botswana has one of the highest mobile penetration rates, with 158 mobile phone subscribers per 100 inhabitants. This allows more patients to gain access to healthcare services, especially if they reside far from health institutions, saving themselves time and money. A high mobile penetration rate also allows medical professional to contact each other, especially those working in remote areas.

High Mobile Penetration
Mobile Phone Subscribers/100 Inhabitants In Selected African Countries (2013)

Recent Developments In Botswana's M-Health Sector

In March 2014, Botswana's Minister of Health Dr John Seakgosing stated that a telemedicine project between Ghanzi Primary Hospital and Princess Marina Hospital has been a success, as it allows doctors in Ghanzi Primary Hospital (which has no specialist radiologists) to send x-ray images to Princess Marina Hospital for interpretation and feedback of more complex medical cases. The rollout of such projects will also be considered in the near future when tele-radiography challenges, such as maintenance issues, have been addressed.

In February 2013, Orange started an m-health competition, seeking proposals from the public - aiming to support local entrepreneurship and improve health in Botswana through the initiative.

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Related sectors of this article: Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare
Geography: Botswana

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