Key takeaways

  • Developing economies such as China and India are leading the charge with adoption of mHealth technologies.
  • The need for improved medical services, population, geographic and socio-economic factors are driving the adoption of mHealth technologies in developing economies.
  • Western economies will be able to the leverage the substantial innovation and mHealth developments that developing countries offer.

A promising revelation from research conducted by PwC in its Emerging mHealth: Paths for growth report, was that emerging markets (particularly India and China) are leading the mobile health charge.

The research revealed that from a patient perspective, expectations are high that mobile technology will help to increase access to care in emerging markets and transform the developed world’s costly healthcare behemoths into less expensive, prevention-based and patient-focused systems.

“When you have no legacy, it is easy to build,” comments Sangita Reddy, Executive Director of Operations, Apollo Hospitals (India). “In emerging markets, higher penetration of mobility is coupled with increasing acceptance of the tool as a medium to interact and exchange information. “

The ability of these counties to leap ahead lies in the paucity of existing healthcare: there is greater demand for change and, just as important, there are fewer entrenched interests to help impede the adoption of new approaches. This move into mHealth has resulted in a number of innovative programs, beneficial to patients, medical practitioners and other stakeholders:

  • Apollo Hospitals Group India recognised the opportunity to share its health-care knowledge to poorer rural areas, by trialling a remote triage advice and health monitoring service.  The service has country-wide coverage, allowing rural dwellers to speak to paramedics, physiotherapists, nurses, doctors and health advisers via a contact centre to access health information and advice. The service reaches a potential audience of 70 million people, 24 hours, seven days a week and since launch has handled over 700,000 calls.
  • A data-gathering programme in Brazil’s Amazonas State provided nearly real-time information on outbreaks of dengue fever, which previously took one to two months to collate.
  • Brazil’s Sistema Tel-Eletro-cardiografia Digital allows ambulances across the country to send cardiograms to the telemedicine unit of a specialist heart hospital in Sao Paulo and within five minutes they receive a diagnosis to guide emergency treatment.
  • A drug counterfeit service by mPedigree based out of Ghana allows patients to SMS a coded number on the packaging of their medication to the service, which will verify that the product is legitimate. This programme benefits a broad audience of stakeholders, such as pharmaceutical firms, pharmacies, purchases and mobile phone companies.

Collectively doctors, governments and private investors in emerging markets are much more likely to recommend patients to use mHealth either on their own or let medical personnel to monitor their conditions.

The benefit to developed markets is that these emerging economies will be sources of substantial innovation that is transferable.

In order to embrace the ubiquitous approach to healthcare through mobile, a broader disruption of the Australian industry needs to occur and with the launch of the PCEHR it is clear that this is well under way.


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Nirosha Methananda

With a marketing and communications background, Nirosha is the former marketing lead for PwC’s Technology Consulting services.

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