OnQ Blog

Using transformative technologies to move mHealth programs from pilots to scale

Qualcomm Wireless Reach Senior Analyst Lauren Reed speaks at the Global mHealth Forum.

The Global mHealth Forum focuses on the increasingly important market of mobile and connected health in emerging economies, and this year it brought together around 300 donors, civil society organizations, NGOs and social entrepreneurs, all of whom are designing, implementing and evaluating state of the art mHealth initiatives. It was absolutely fantastic to be in the same space as so many dynamic and innovative people!  

By gathering all of these important thought leaders and practitioners in one place, the Forum embodied a community of practice, where so many of us who are grappling with the same questions could come together and exchange insights.

Representing Qualcomm Wireless Reach, I gave a talk on the sometimes elusive challenge of how to bring a pilot to scale. I co-led the session, titled “The Business Case for mHealth: Getting from Pilots to Scale,” with Palladium, who has worked with the GSMA to create a new open-source financial modeling tool. I shared the Wireless Reach model on designing mHealth public-private partnerships for scale and introduced a number of our programs that were adopted by governments based on proven cost-effectiveness.

In Flagstaff, Arizona for example, we were able to dramatically decrease health costs while improving health outcomes in the Care beyond Walls and Wires program. Flagstaff Medical Center gave patients with chronic heart failure mobile broadband-enabled remote monitoring kits so they could have a closer relationship with their care providers to better manage their disease and reduce their hospital readmittance rate.

Our researchers found that compared to the six months prior to enrollment, these patients had 44% fewer hospitalizations and 64% fewer days hospitalized in the six months following enrollment, compared to before enrollment. As a result, hospital charges per patient were a mean of $92,000 less in the six months following enrollment, compared to before enrollment.

Care beyond Walls and Wires is now scaling across the entire Northern Arizona Healthcare System as the standard of care, and will be used for all patients with chronic heart failure, respiratory disease and sepsis.

In our experience, designing mHealth programs isn’t easy, but adoption by governments is more likely if an intervention demonstrates both cost-effectiveness and substantive health outcomes through rigorous research.

While successful mHealth programs exist, they are still the exception rather than the norm. Nonetheless, I think everyone at the Global mHealth Forum was in agreement on where we practitioners need to focus our energies for now: scale, standards, interoperability, government stewardship and robust proof-points. Through Wireless Reach, we are dedicated to continuing to create blueprints for scale for each of the diverse mHealth programs in our portfolio.


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