Thursday, February 19, 2009

mHealth Alliance Launched in Barcelona

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, attendees saw fewer new product announcements than in years past. But some exciting opportunities were still to be found. One such opportunity was the timely announcement of the global mHealth Alliance to be launched in the coming year. The organization is intended as a collection of private-sector companies, governments, health organizations and non-profit foundations that aim to support mobile health initiatives through research, funding, advising and promoting common standards. The mHealth Alliance is spearheaded by global founding partners including Vodafone Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and the United Nations Foundation.

Vital Wave Consulting played a role in the creation of the mHealth Alliance, facilitating an international mHealth conference in Bellagio, Italy last July and authoring the United Nations Foundation and Vodafone Foundation Technology Partnership’s mHealth for Development report. Research on early mHealth initiatives showed overwhelming interest and support among all participants – public health practitioners, government officials, NGOs and corporate managers. It also revealed a promising industry that has the opportunity to achieve sustainability and broad geographic impact while addressing some of healthcare’s more critical issues such as a global shortage of healthcare workers and the continuing spread of communicable diseases. Industry leaders interviewed as part of the report agreed that scale is essential and its potential is dependent on the services’ ease-of-use for healthcare workers, adaptability to low-end handsets, and the ability to install and maintain on operator networks. Without scale, such programs have the potential to be relegated to corporate social responsibility programs rather than revenue-generating enterprises.

To accelerate the growth of mHealth and fully unleash the potential of its applications, dynamic multi-sector collaboration is needed between groups as diverse as governments, multilateral organizations, and the private sector. Joint action such as the mHealth Alliance has the potential to create a global mHealth infrastructure that lays out common standards and guidelines, and serves as a repository for shared resources and best practices. Private-sector stakeholders in mHealth, mBanking and other mobile service areas would do well to participate in emerging alliances to support the scale of applications, services and business models that have clear social benefits and tremendous potential for profitable returns.

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