I have recently become very interested in mHealth, that is, the application of mobile computing and communications technology to healthcare. Here in India, many believe that India’s pressing healthcare needs could benefit from judicious application of information technology. Mobile-computing technology may be particularly helpful, for example, by improving access to healthcare, by encouraging personal health management, and by enabling patient and provider mobility. Wearable medical devices are emerging, to measure pulse, respiration, ECG, blood glucose level, and patient mobility. Handheld devices support clinicians in urban hospitals, and portable diagnostic kits allow remote healthcare teams to more easily reach rural villages. The widespread availability of mobile phones, and recent experiments with low-cost, long-range broadband wireless networks, bring connectivity to all these opportunities. Read on.
So, I set out to organize a workshop about mHealth in India. I was ably assisted by Dr. Kentaro Toyama of Microsoft Research India and Prof. P. Vijay Kumar here at IISc. The goal of this invitation-only workshop was to gather an inter-disciplinary group to explore this hypothesis: that mobile-computing technology can enhance the health and well-being of Indians. Participants, including engineers and healthcare professionals drawn from academia, industry, and the public sector, described existing projects and identified inter-disciplinary research opportunities where mobile-computing technology may help in addressing the pressing healthcare needs of India. Topics included mobile-computing platforms for field research, long-distance Wi-Fi networks, health information systems, emergency response, electronic pill boxes, and user interfaces. This workshop aimed to encourage the creation of collaborative research teams that bridge universities and connect researchers and practitioners.
There were approximately 70 participants, including academics, professionals from the technology industry, and medical practitioners with expertise in both urban and rural medicine. The program was packed, but we included ample opportunities for informal discussion through four coffee/tea breaks, a luncheon, and a wrap-up reception. My sense is that the participants enjoyed the day, with many stopping to express their gratitude about the workshop and indicating that they had learned a lot. I saw many people exchanging business cards, which I hope will lead to future opportunities for communication and collaboration between these diverse communities. I know I learned a lot about healthcare in India, and about some innovative technology that just might help!
This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2020, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.