Mobile technologies, digital communications and social media are powerful tools that can be used to prevent NCDs by creating networks for health access, giving both patients and doctors new tools for prevention and treatment. Prominently, mobile health (mHealth) initiatives that use mobile phones to gather and deliver health information have significant potential in this field.
The potential scale of this opportunity is vast, as globally there are already almost as many mobile phone subscriptions as there are people. This almost universal access contributes to some of the greatest benefits of mHealth solutions: they are cost-effective and have a wide geographical and social range.
Initiatives are already being deployed around the world for a great variety of purposes. These include delivering health promotion messages regarding NCD risk factors, surveying populations, nudging individuals to rethink unhealthy behaviours, and helping to implement national NCD policies. Moreover, the relative novelty of the mHealth approach, combined with the almost universal nature of the technology, fosters innovation that can be tailored to meet both mass markets and specific needs. Notably, new sensors and technologies capable of conducting, storing, transmitting, and evaluating diagnostic tests through mobile phones are an area of rapid development.
Combined with the advent of big data, these technologies are likely to generate novel applications in the future, potentially revealing great relevance to the challenge of efficiently managing medical records. Coupled with accelerating rates of high-speed network coverage and rapidly decreasing hardware costs, mHealth approaches to combatting NCDs are becoming uniquely poised to provide life-saving information and services to all.