Healthcare: Delivering Health Care on Phone
New technology platform can make Internet content and services available to the masses from low-end mobile phones.
- January 2011
- By TR Editors
One of the major challenges in developing countries like India is to make health care accessible to rural areas. Seventy percent of rural areas in India lack hospitals, physicians, and medical equipment. To address this lacuna, many government funded projects set up rural health centers with a connectivity to a central hub of expert doctors. There are approximately 4,000 such community health centers (CHCs) and 25,000 primary healthcare centers that aim at providing specialized medical care in India. However, for effective functioning of these projects, providing anytime, anywhere access to important health-related information for health workers is crucial.
With the growth of the Internet, several healthcare portals are now available to provide appropriate solutions to common problems. However, information technology adoption, particularly in rural areas, is very low. Internet penetration in India is less than five percent and computer adoption is just nine percent. On the contrary, there is huge growth in the mobile phone usage in India and other developing countries. India has more than 700 million mobile phone users, which is nearly 40 times the number of Web users in the country. On the flip side, more than 50 percent of these phones are ultra-low-end handsets with just voice and text messaging capabilities.
To meet this demand, Hewlett-Packard has developed an application called SiteOnMobile that delivers Internet experience over low-featured phones. It helps patients, doctors, and pharmacists access and upload healthcare related information through either a message or by use of voice. The application does not require users to have any sophisticated computing skill set to upload or access content. A Beta version of the solution was made available in July 2010 at www.siteonmobile.com and a pilot project is currently on, enabling voice and text-based access to Indian consumers with low-end phones. The pilot is planned to be expanded for rural health care in Orissa to monitor the health of pregnant mothers and infants under the ASHA initiative.
HOW IT WORKS
There are several small and medium businesses in India that have invested in e-commerce Web portals for their businesses, but they have been unable to leverage from such portals. The SiteOnMobile is a cloud service that enables such website owners to define specific tasks on their website, such as “Buy Solar Stoves”, and make those tasks easily accessible to their customers using low-end mobile phones. The key idea is to view the Web not as a set of websites or web pages but as a set of Web tasks that one would want to frequently perform. HP has introduced a concept called Tasklets that are special type of task-based widgets which can be created by a user by just “showing the action once on the browser”. The user needs to perform the Web task on multiple websites using HP’s special browser and the system then automatically generates a widget-like interaction for that task.
MOBILE HELP SiteOnMobile allows users to create and access tasklets in the cloud.
A tasklet basically models a Web interaction as a sequence of Web actions needed to perform the task on different web pages. These tasklets are hosted in a cloud service and hence can be executed on diverse thin clients. For example, if a user creates a tasklet of “Book a Taxi,” he or she will get an access code. The next time the user wants to book a taxi he or she need not go through several Web pages to reach the booking page. The application will do all of it for the user internally and serve the booking page on the user’s phone screen instantly. The user could also use voice access code to book a taxi.
The tasklets can be accessed by users over SMS and voice services. The message text sent from the mobile device provides the details of the Web task that needs to be executed and the system performs the task on the cloud and sends back the result over SMS. For example, if the user sends an SMS “weather bangalore” to a predefined SMS access code, he or she will receive back the weather information from weather.com.
Mobile phone users can also access these tasklets through an interactive voice recognition (IVR) interface. Once a user dials the access code, an IVR application provides voice menu and sub menu dialogues and enables the user to select the task and get results.
Essentially, there are two classes of target users for the SiteOnMobile solution: The website owners who would be interested in enabling new content/services over SMS or voice can expand their reach (for example, hospitals, medical practitioners, pharmacists, community portals) and the consumers who would be interested in accessing specific (health-related) Web content or service using low-end mobile phone (by using either voice or SMS).
SiteOnMobile can enable healthcare centers in rural India, which lack infrastructure to provide specialized doctor consultation to their critical patients, to easily access the valuable healthcare information from hospitals’ Web contents and services using a low-end mobile phone. The solution can also allow patient’s medical data such as glucose level and blood pressure information to be uploaded by using a mobile phone and sent to a city doctor for monitoring patient parameters and medication advice. This particular use case is currently under development and is planned to be first used for Malaria control in Orissa. The health data will be updated by health workers who regularly monitor health of such patients during the treatment period.