Wrap-up of November #SocEntChat: mHealth and eHealth

Story bubbles on world map
Source: Ashoka


The above word cloud was created from the transcript that came out of last week’s social entrepreneurship chat (#SocEntChat) on twitter. It was one of our fastest paced chats to date and with the topic ‘prospects and challenges for mHealth and eHealth’, we able to draw in “attendees” working on maternal and child health issues, public health policy, information and communication technologies (ICTs), open-sourced platforms for collecting health data, and global health experts, among many others.
Looking at the above word cloud, what stands out to me most? The words users, empowerment, data, and local. In fact, these words represent some of the key points of the discussion.

Users and user empowerment. A good amount of time was spent on trying to understand how the user of mHealth and eHealth tools is empowered to inform the designers, implementers, and policy makers of what their needs are. We thought we were on to something, until we realized that many of us were talking about different users, and therefore the so-called answer to these questions was going to be different depending on perspective. In the end, it seemed clear that when talking about empowerment through mHealth and eHealth tools, there are three groups to keep in mind: general population, the local programmers/technologists, and the health system (those making policies, etc).

Data. Where is the data? That was another important point during the discussion. Beyond data, there was a call for data on what hasn’t worked in the mHealth and eHealth fields to date. The need for understanding what and what does not impact health outcomes and why is a gap recognized by the group. However, there is still some skepticism as to whether or not getting the “failure data” out there so that researchers can learn from it is possible. Considering how large the role of donors and government is in terms of funding, will they really want what hasn’t worked to be publicized?

Local. The conversation had a key theme throughout, which was the need for mHealth and eHealth projects and initiatives to be designed for the local population, or better yet by the local population. The final question, regarding the role of communications in getting mHealth and eHealth innovations adopted in communities brought us back to the local level again. A key point that stuck with me was the integral role that communicators and educators play in the development and scaling of these types of projects.

These themes are just a snapshot of the great ideas and thoughts brought to light in the #SocEntChat.

The next #SocEntChat will take place on Wednesday December 2 on the topic of "The Future of News".