mHealth to Improve TB Care 2012

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This report shares early experiences of projects and programs that have utilized mHealth in global tuberculosis (TB) control efforts, discusses their potential impact, and identifies challenges in scalability and evidence for policy makers. TB, a largely curable disease, remains a public health challenge for humanity. One-third of the estimated nine million people who become ill with TB every year are still not accurately diagnosed or effectively treated, and are at risk of dying. Interest in mHealth for TB control has escalated rapidly in the recent past, and new strategies and innovations are constantly being explored. mHealth can be a cornerstone of some of these efforts. Healthcare providers can establish and maintain lines of communication with patients equipped with increasingly ubiquitous mobile technology. Populations that were previously difficult to reach can now be included in health coverage networks, empowering them to take on their own health decisions. 

Efforts at integrating mHealth into TB control programs are fledgling, with most not having moved beyond the pilot stage. Yet some projects have demonstrated successful outcomes at modest scale, and offer exciting new opportunities to improve the health of TB patients around the world.

This report highlights the successes and challenges associated with 31 projects identified from around the world. The area of TB control that most current mHealth projects focus on is treatment compliance, but significant work is also being done to bolster DOTS monitoring and mobile diagnostics. Using mobile phones to find, diagnose, treat, remind and track TB patients could prove to be very effective in resource-limited settings, especially where issues such as health worker shortages or geographical terrain hamper effective TB management and control.