The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and global telecommunications operator Orange announced a new alliance to develop innovations in mobile health (mHealth) at the Global mHealth Forum in Washington, DC. These mHealth innovations will help treat and care for individuals in developing countries across Africa.
“With the increasing use and decreasing cost of mobile phones, leveraging mobile phone technology to accelerate access to health information and services is a game changer,” said Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez, USAID’s Assistant Administrator for Global Health. “USAID’s partnerships with private companies, such as Orange, enable us to have a larger impact in a cost-effective manner.”
The first phase of these health system-strengthening programs will leverage the expertise, technology and local resources of both organizations to improve quality of care and ensure that health services are readily accessible to the public at large. Niger and other countries are currently under exploration.
Future services will use integrated mHealth platforms and Orange mobile networks to communicate alerts and share resources around family planning and maternal health. Healthcare workers will be able to use the technology to share medical expertise, collaborate with specialists regardless of location, and improve patient care. In addition, the public will be able to access health information via the mHealth platforms. Orange’s global footprint, with mobile and fixed networks in 20 countries in Africa and the Middle East, will provide seamless and reliable access to these services.
A maternal mHealth solution will provide medical practitioners access to the latest tools and medical information allowing them to monitor a mother’s pregnancy from a distance. This is particularly useful in some parts of Africa where much of the population lives in rural areas without easy access to healthcare or readily available means of transport. By using mHealth solutions, medical professionals would be able to flag potential problems early and provide the necessary care that reduces risks to mother and child.
“There is a tremendous amount of good that mobile technology and digital innovations can bring to improve the quality of healthcare to those less fortunate,” said Thierry Zylberberg, Director, Orange Healthcare. “Together with USAID, we are creating innovative mHealth platforms that open up the opportunities for remote patient monitoring or healthcare workers to make better-informed decisions and facilitate quality care for all citizens.”
The goal of the USAID/Orange alliance is to create a framework for easily replicating these important mobile services in a number of African countries throughout the region. In West Africa, USAID and Orange are starting to develop a regional platform with a menu of mobile applications that ministries of health, donors and NGOs could use for consumer education, health worker tools, mobile money, and data collection.
Orange’s expertise in interoperability and scalability will ensure that such platforms adhere to local regulatory and structural organizations. Orange has been at the forefront of realizing Africa’s digital transformation, connecting people, entrepreneurs, towns and cities, and delivering innovative services such as mobile payment.