The Journal of mHealth Vol 1 Issue 1 (Feb 2014) - Page 33

EPHA Briefing on Mobile Health tailored information in their own language(s) and reporting problems. Given the plethora of difficulties (social, legal, discrimination, etc.) vulnerable individuals are subject to, health is often neglected and pain endured. There is potential for mHealth to reach out to people on the margins of society, e.g. by providing anonymous advice, meaningful and multilingual content (e.g. respecting religious and cultural peculiarities) and location tracking for people in danger. The possibilities for customisation are extensive since mobile content surprisingly, those who make the most use of ‘apps’ are individuals living in technologically advanced Member States [15] while the poor and lesser educated have little if any exposure. Industry mHealth involves the IT and telecommunications sectors, the pharmaceutical industry, medical devices companies and consultancies. For all of them it represents an interesting market to tap into, especially in the current economic While mHealth can create efficiencies, it must be underlined that health decisionmaking requires more than raw data, including information obtained from faceto-face contact that can put the data into context, which is unique for each individual. does not rely on traditional literacy skills. Instead, it can integrate pictograms, voice-recognition, video content, etc. If a concerted effort is made to ‘Include Everyone’ as recommended in the eHealth Task Force Report [14], mHealth could represent a step towards reducing health inequalities. Conversely, much remains to be done to improve the availability and functionality of ‘apps’: each technology requires its own approach regarding design and content. Many are presently either too ‘cluttered’ or only available in English, hence they remain inaccessible to the majority. It is also problematic that some require social media memberships as a prerequisite. Un- climate in which healthcare is difficult to deliver without private investments. At European level, the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing [16] stimulates multi-sector partnerships for providing eHealth and mobile health solutions, e.g. in the areas of ambient assisted living and domotics. The market for mHealth ‘apps’ is still highly fragmented and immature. Many solutions are being developed without much consideration of health and social inclusion objectives. In 2012, the first European Directory of Health Apps [17] was launched by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT). This repository of health and wellness apps reviewed by patient groups and consumers provides a status quo of what is available, with products ranging from the useful (e.g., toilet finder) to the quirky (e.g., yoga poses). In order to find long-term viability and focus, solutions will need to have both mass appeal and be flexible enough for tackling health inequalities. Clearly, fostering equitable mHealth depends on the extent to which end users are able to influence the policy-making and design process. mHealth takes eHealth to another level in the sense that it moves health into a consumer realm that can be difficult to control and legislate, as the experience of unauthorised internet pharmacies and bogus health websites has shown. Hence, it will be crucial to develop ethical guidelines and sustainable business models in line with end users’ needs. Partnerships must be formed to ensure that stakeholders understand the stakes and constraints (including legal, operational, security, educational and access issues), and to avoid that mHealth aggravates offline health inequalities in the face of mass unemployment and austerity measures. [18] Governments and Healthcare Managers mHealth is of importance to national and regional policy makers as it promises significant savings by providing services remotely and targeting specific population Continued on page 32 31 The Journal of mHealth