Healthcare Apps
The relationship between phones and medical care evolved rapidly with the rise of smartphones. Not only do people now have an effective means of communication at their fingertips, but they also have information and, lately, an increasing number of medical tools as well. Here are ten health care apps making a significant impact in developing countries.

10 Health Care Apps in Developing Countries

  1. Peek: Peek has its sights set on helping people with vision impairment issues and blindness, a problem exacerbated in developing countries by a lack of resources. Peek can identify people with vision problems and work with health care providers to pinpoint an economically feasible way to supply the treatment they need. Currently, the International Centre for Eye Health uses Peek at the London School of Hygiene. Tropical Medicine is also administering a population-based survey of blindness and visual impairments in Cambodia.
  2. SASAdoctor: SASAdoctor is making health care consultations more accessible in Kenya, where only 12% of the population is insured. The app is available to all Kenyans with an Android smartphone or tablet (65% of the population). For the uninsured, using SASAdoctor is cheaper than an in-person consultation, bringing costs down to the equivalent of $4.66. Patients have their medical history, list of medications and other medical notes in the app. This ensures that the consulting professionals will have the information they need to create an informed medical opinion. A projected 80% of Kenyans will have smartphones in the next few years, making the app increasingly beneficial.
  3. iWander: The purpose of iWander is to help keep track of dementia patients. Set with tracking technology that can be discretely worn by the patient, the app gives users more control over the care of loved ones, which can be vital in countries where health care may be less accessible. By helping families be proactive to crises, iWander can help cut costs, as home care for dementia patients is often expensive.
  4. Kenek O2: Kenek O2 allows the user to monitor their oxygen levels and heart rate while they sleep. Built for iPhones, the app also requires a pulse oximeter which connects to the phone. Together, the cost for these two items is around $100. In contrast, a regular hospital oximeter and similar products could cost upward of $500. Having been used effectively in North America, South America, Asia and Africa, Kenek O2 is currently working on developing a special COVID-19 device to watch for early signs of hypoxia, or the deficiency of oxygen reaching tissues.
  5. First Derm: First Derm also requires a smartphone-connected device called a dermatoscope. This enables patients to take detailed pictures of skin conditions for effective teleconsultations. In places where patients have little access to health care facilities, this makes getting a second medical opinion much easier. So far, First Derm has helped in more than 15,000 users from Sweden, Chile, China, Australia and Ghana. Of these, 70% could be treated without a doctor, most often by over-the-counter treatments available at local pharmacies.
  6. Ada: Functioning as a personal health assistant, Ada provides medical advice to users who input their symptoms. The app is intended to assist those who don’t have the means to seek an in-person consultation right away. Currently, 10 million people around the world are using Ada for symptom evaluation.
  7. Babylon: Another app that’s intended to mitigate the obstacle of going to see a doctor in person, Babylon allows users to input their symptoms. The app specializes in non-emergent medicine, allowing patients to skip a trip to the doctor’s office entirely if their condition allows it. This is beneficial in places where doctors are sparse, or the patient lacks the financial means to get to the hospital. Babylon caters to users across the U.S., U.K., Canada, Rwanda and several countries across Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. The goal is to expand to even more countries in the coming years.
  8. MobiSante: When connected to its ultrasound device, MobiSante provides quality diagnostic imaging. The ultrasound is then sent directly to the patient, enabling them to receive health care outside the confines of a hospital or clinic. The app brings more holistic and informed treatments to people who may have previously struggled in finding a place with the proper resources to diagnose them.
  9. Go.Data: Go.Data is a tool released by the WHO specifically for collecting data during global health emergencies. During the Ebola outbreak in Africa, Go.Data, praised for tracing points of contact, also tracked infection trends and helped in arranging post-contact follow up.
  10. Mobile Midwife: A digital charting app that stores information in the cloud, Mobile Midwife ensures midwives have access to pertinent patient information. Mobile Midwife is designed to function even where an internet connection isn’t reliable. It is beneficial in areas with high mother and infant mortality, helping health providers give high-quality care.

Bridging health care with smartphone apps isn’t a perfect solution, as it often comes with accessibility issues of its own. However, these apps can help people connect virtually with medical professionals, increasing access to health care and often reducing costs. The result is a more equal distribution of power between the health care system and the patient, empowering a healthier (and more health-conscious) population.

Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr