Fighting Tuberculosis with Mobile Phone Credit
Despite all the fear-mongering about adverse affects of mobile technology on one’s health, the same technology has (rather ironically) emerged as one of the most important forces transforming the field of global health. In the last few years alone we have observed the emergence of a host of new and extremely innovative projects from mPedigree ...
Despite all the fear-mongering about adverse affects of mobile technology on one’s health, the same technology has (rather ironically) emerged as one of the most important forces transforming the field of global health. In the last few years alone we have observed the emergence of a host of new and extremely innovative projects from mPedigree in Ghana, which allows to verify the authenticity of medical drugs via a text message, to BloodBank in Kenya, which relies on text messaging to provide more effective distribution of blood supplies between the central blood repository and local hospitals.
One of my personal favorites is SIMPill, which is a small pill bottle with a SIM card and a unique box ID; on opening, the bottle sends text messages to a central server to verify that patients have taken their medication. SIMPill’s simple technology seems to be quite effective: a recent study published in the Lancent, one of the best-known medical journals, found a 94 percent treatment success rate among 155 TB patients after 10 months of using the technology in three clinics in Cape Town).
However, a new project from MIT (found by way of this article in the Telegraph) looks even more promising, as it has built-in psychological incentives and successfully leverages mobile technology to motivate human behavior:
The scheme, originally developed by students at the US Massachusetts Institute of Technology, offers free top-ups to sufferers who send text messages to health care centres with a unique code proving they have taken their drugs.
The mobile phone incentive scheme works by patients conducting their own urine tests using test-strips which, if they have taken their medicine properly, reveal a unique code which they SMS to a healthcare centre.
Dr. Mario Raviglione, director of a World Health Organization program to fight TB, said the SMS scheme would compliment face-to-face contact with health workers, enabling them to target those who stop taking their medicines when they start to feel better.
“Not everyone lives across the street from the doctor. In rural China where mobile phones are common this could be an important way of combining the need for compliance with a helpful incentive,” he added.
Photo by Khedara/Flickr
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