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Wearable devices may give mHealth in Africa a boost

Wearable devices may give mHealth in Africa a boost.

Utilisation of mobile health platforms across Africa is mainly focused on boosting healthcare education as well as fostering access to basic health care services, experts said Wednesday.

In Zimbabwe Econet Wireless already runs a dial-a-doctor service while other operators in the region also offer health tips via mobile phones. Econet also has an Ecohealth unit.

Frost & Sullivan said in a note on Wednesday that "in Africa, mHealth has been aggressively pursued as a way of increasing the level of healthcare education, treatment adherence and to increase access to basic healthcare services".

There has also been widespread roll out of mobile health insurance services across Africa, as well as direct-to-consumer awareness channels like mobile phones to inform and education the general public about health related issues.

Frost & Sullivan highlighted that wearable devices are expected to represent the next wave of mHealth solutions. These would likely act as the gateway to the connected health world.

It estimates that the number of sensors and wearable devices that will be shipped globally will increase drastically over the next 3 to 4 years, reaching a market value of almost US$ 40 billion by 2018.

However, key challenges for attainment of this and full adoption of mobile health include lack of integration and cooperation between government departments overseeing health institutions and participating companies.

"A key challenge is that full alignment between governments and participating organisations is still required.

"Added to this, is the limited business case for the use of mHealth. This seems to restrain the incorporation of mHealth solutions into the budgets of health Ministries," said Dr Etienne van Wyk, Frost & Sullivan programme manager for healthcare in Africa.

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