Mobile Health and Underserved Populations
The field of mobile health (mHealth) broadly encompasses the use of wireless information and communications technologies within health service delivery and public health systems to improve health outcomes through new forms of interactive mHealth services. Key interventions using mobile phones that promote patient engagement involve the use of widely adopted applications such as text messaging to provide patient education and personal reminders, as well as personal health management tools that support patient activation in health promotion, preventive care, treatment compliance, and disease management. The emergence of smartphones now offers more advanced multimedia functions such as video, web browsing, and health-related software applications, but with the shared goal of promoting improved efficiencies in care management practices and improved individual and population health outcomes. The high penetration of mobile communications technology among low-income and minority populations in the United States presents unprecedented opportunities to improve the health of the U.S. population and reach traditionally underserved subgroups (e.g., rural communities, low-income groups, and ethnic minority populations). In particular, mHealth solutions offer the potential to transform safety net care delivery and remove traditional geographic and economic barriers that these populations typically experience in their access to care services.