Corruption, fraud and discrimination are major barriers to healthcare provision in many developing countries, but mobile phone technology innovations like apps could help beat the bad practices, a new study has suggested.
Researchers from universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge undertook a comprehensive review of existing studies on how digital technologies were being used to tackle questionable practices in healthcare.
They identified several initiatives – such as reporting of discrimination on social media – that were helping in increasing transparency and accountability in healthcare services.
Barcodes that can be read by mobile devices are helping people to check that their medicines are genuine, they found.
Good governance is essential for ensuring citizens have fair access to high-quality healthcare, the experts say.
“As digital technologies become more widely available there are real opportunities to make a difference, and we’ve seen some great examples of innovation,” said Claudia Pagliari, of University of Edinburgh’s Global Health Academy and Usher Institute of Population Health and Informatics.
Pagliari, however, says further research is needed to understand which approaches are likely to work best and why.
Isaac Holeman, a Gates Scholar pursuing PhD studies at the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School, and co-founder of the non-profit MedicMobile, adds: “To be effective these technologies need to be designed with a sound understanding of the lived experiences of users and accompanied by the right mechanisms for turning digital insights into action.”
The study, published in the Journal of Global Health, was funded by the US Agency for International Development through its Leadership, Management and Government Project.