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Symposium on Infectious Diseases: Infectious diseases in the emerging era of mHealth; Beyond 2015

Location: Munich, Germany

Date: March 2015

Over the past decade, the revolution in mobile communications technology has opened a new horizon and possibilities in the health care field, providing significant advances in infectious diseases control. The rapid progress of communication technologies has led to a new category of healthcare solution called mobile health (mHealth) that has potential to improve care and access to it.

Sessions and speakers

An overview of mHealth in the field of infectious diseases: Past and present
Prof. Dr. Thomas Löscher, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany.
The use of information and communication technologies in health area is a target of the 8th Millennium Develop Goal. In this context, the use of mHealth has increased in different categories, also for infectious diseases: in health education, promoting community mobilization and providing health information; in remote data collection of medical records and surveillance information; in remote monitoring, for patient follow-up and treatment reminder; in outbreaks, for emergency support and surveillance, in diagnosis and treatment by supporting clinical decision and in information area, for risk assessment, and to support health care centers.

The known and unknown of mHealth in infectious diseases
Tobias Broger MSc., Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), Switzerland.
mHealth has shown a good potential as a strategy to catalyze health interventions, according to previous experiences and research. Tools for evaluation of mHealth, policies and guidance are available and help to develop this area. On the other hand, more evidence is necessary to assess the impact of its use in quality and access to care, and to improve health outcomes.

Current available mHealth services in infectious disease management and prevention: Examples of successful projects and programs using mHealth:

  • Diagnosis
    Prof. Joel Ehrenkranz, i-calQ, USA.
    Mobile technologies have been used as tools to capture images for diagnosis, to register clinical data and to support decision making through point-of-care diagnosis. Thus, mHealth can help physicians in infectious diseases diagnosis; however, it can also contribute to increase the burden of diseases and health costs, due to the increased number of cases diagnosed. Lack of clinical skills can result from the dependence of this new tool.
  • Surveillance and notifiability
    Prof. Joel Ehrenkranz, i-calQ, USA.
    The use of mobile technologies has enabled disease mapping by providing nearly real-time data on infectious diseases occurrence located in time and space. Thus, mHealth can be an important tool for surveillance and monitoring.
  • Reminder system for adherence, follow up and treatment
    Prof. Lawrence Mbuagbaw, McMaster University, Canada.
    Through a user experience of mHealth as a reminder system for HIV patients, text messages sent to mobile phones improved adherence to antiretroviral treatment and had a good acceptance by users. Short, weekly and interactive messages were more effective, enhancing communication between professionals and patients.
  • Health intervention and user experience: A case study from a developing country of Tanzania
    Dr. Mwele Ntuli Malecela, National Institute for Medical Research, Tanzania.
    Tanzania has experienced the implementation of mHealth, especially by using mobile phones, to support the control of neglect tropical diseases, increasing the efficiency of routine work in data capture for reporting and recording. Some challenges are still present, as insufficient use of information generated to support decentralized decision-making, lack of flowing information from districts to national level and deficient feedback to frontline workers.

Do we have enough scientific evidence to adopt and scale up mHealth?
Tobias Broger MSc., Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), Switzerland.
mHealth is between the two phases of development: validation and post-efficacy, with its adoption, scale, institutionalization, replication and sustainability increasing. Despite knowing more about the stability of mHealth, information on functionality, usability, efficacy and effectiveness is still needed.
Data privacy and security in mHealth
Dipl. Ing. Peter Pharow, Fraunhofer-Institut für Digitale Medientechnologie, Germany.
Data privacy and security are sensible aspects to be considered in mHealth, due to ethical concerns. Identity management is a crucial aspect to develop this technology, guaranteeing confidentiality. Patient ownership of their data must be ensured, as well as, access security of data and anonymization for preventing breach of privacy.

Key strategic considerations for implementing mHealth
Prof. Lawrence Mbuagbaw, McMaster University, Canada.
System integration is a strategy to be considered for implementing mHealth and improving its efficiency. Good communication infrastructure must be available for supporting interventions, and the roles of health workers must be clear for a adequate use of mHealth tools, always preserving patient privacy.