mHealth (or mobile health if you prefer) is such a broad area. Not only can it include every aspect of healthcare, but it also has no geographic, economic, or cultural barriers. You might remember that I wrote previously about various categories of mobile health apps. I think there are also 3 categories of mHealth communities. While there is some overlap, I think it’s interesting to look at each communities unique assets.
Smart Phone User, Developed Country – This category of mHealth user has a smart phone and almost always has internet access. If they don’t have their smart phone, they’re in front of a laptop or computer, they’re holding a tablet, they’re always on and always connected. Internet access and electricity are generally not a problem.
Non-Smart Phone User, Developed Country – This group is quickly becoming smaller and smaller as smart phone’s become cheaper. Plus, it’s amazing how many people who can barely put food on the table have an iPhone in the pocket. However, this group also contains many of the older generation who don’t have a smart phone (my mom’s in this group). Both of these groups are really important parts of the healthcare system. However, for some reason many of the mHealth applications that are made don’t consider them.
Cell Phone User, Underdeveloped Country – We’ve all seen the statistic that shows that there are more people in the world with cell phones than there are people who have clean drinking water. These users have a cell phone, but these are generally feature phones and not smart phones. In some cases they might not have a place to charge the phone regularly and the service they get might be spotty. There are a lot of amazing mHealth applications being built for these communities. I’m always amazed at the power of a text message.
I’m sure we could divide these categories in a lot of different ways. Certainly there are plenty of exceptions to these categories as well, but I think it’s valuable to consider which type of user an mHealth application is trying to help. It makes all the difference when developing your mobile health application.