Roundtable on mHealth

mHealth: mHealth for improved access and equity in health care (February 2017)

Topic

The topic was proposed by a fellow and visiting scholar working on the STIAS research theme of Health in Transition. The main aim was to examine the use of mobile technology, especially imaging, in diagnostics and treatment, in order to assess the promise of improving access and equity in health care, with a focus on resource-constrained settings prevalent in low and middle income countries.

Preparation and organisation

A core committee was formed immediately after the previous roundtable. Part of this committee functioned as a Stockholm core group assistingwith identifying suitable participants from Sweden and the wider international community. The STIAS fellows and visiting scholars on the core committee spent the month of August (preceding the roundtable) at STIAS to meet with their South African counterparts and to assist with preparations. A meeting of the full committee was held during the last week of August.

The core committee negotiated early on that a special edition of the journal Global Health Action (GHA) will be dedicated to mHealth, and a guest editor was appointed. The committee solicited and briefed contributors to submit their manuscripts by the end of October. Manuscripts were reviewed before acceptance for publication. Although GHA is an online journal, a printed version will be produced of the special edition on mHealth, in time for distribution at the roundtable, thanks to a special grant from the Wallenberg foundation.

During the planning meeting in August 2016, a draft programme was produced and a provisional list of participants identified. Invitations went out in the first half of October and non-responders followed or eliminated after six weeks.

Some aspects of the organisation and preparation are worth mentioning as they proved to be especially valuable in terms of the success of the Roundtable. First among these was the active involvement of a few core members of the organising committee and their availability in the weeks immediately preceding the Roundtable. Another was the composition of the programme sessions following the elements of the roadmap as the intended outcome of the Roundtable, and assigning responsibility for communication with scheduled speakers to the session moderators. Yet another was the decision to limit all scheduled contributions (except keynotes) to ten minutes each, and to allocate at least an hour discussion time per session. Also, the structuring of discussion time in terms of sectorally distributed seating allocation at round tables and the pre-assigned roles of discussion leaders, rapporteurs and note takers at each table, contributed to more effective use of discussion time and enhanced networking among participants. Last but not least, moderators were tasked to remain involved in summarising the feedback from discussions and the finalisation of the elements of the roadmap.

Participation

Close to sixty participants attended the Roundtable. The participants were drawn from 16 countries and 41 per cent were female. In terms of sectors, research and professionals or clinical staff were strongly represented, followed by the policy sector with business and investment in the last position. Again, no active politicians accepted, though invited. The policy sector was however, represented by senior officials especially from African countries.

Outcomes and impact

The Roundtable aimed at producing a special issue of Global Health Action, devoted entirely to mHealth; and a “Roadmap for the expansion and roll-out of mHealth to enhance the provision of accessible and equitable health care in underserved areas”.

Production of the special issue experienced several delays, among others a change of editor, and the difficulty of procuring manuscripts from voluntary writers on time, which meant that the manuscripts were not ready and available for distribution at the Roundtable.

In the case of the roadmap, the Roundtable produced a set of statements, prioritised by participants’ voting in the penultimate session, which can now guide the construction and completion of this outcome.
At the time of writing, a timetable and assigned responsibilities are in place, promising to finalise these outcomes within about four months.

Further reading

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