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Mobile Health Monitoring: SMS Keeps it Simple

In the midst of complicated new mobile medical technology and apps, SMS is still as useful as ever.

When you hear ‘mobile health monitoring,’ your mind may conjure up images of shiny gadgets, smartphones, apps and implanted microchips that can work together to perform a cardiogram, say, or alert you that you’re about to have an asthma attack. They make the future of medicine look like part Star Trek sickbay, part Six Million Dollar Man and/or Bionic Woman. And there’s certainly plenty of momentum in that direction.

But what if you need to create a service that can reach the widest possible audience? Step forward the trusty workhorse of mobile services – SMS.

In South Africa, SMS was used to enable viewers of the TV show Makutano Junction to text in to get more information about HIV/AIDS.

UNICEF Malawi is using SMS to track child malnutrition. Health workers submit children’s height, weight, age and other basic data as text messages via a system called RapidSMS, which performs calculations on the data, and instantly alerts the workers of their patients’ health status. The new process is helping to identify and help more children with moderate malnutrition.

A university in Spain used SMS to help diabetic patients monitor their disease by sending blood sugar levels and body weight to a server. The server reciprocated once a month with a ‘calculated glycosylated haemoglobin’ result, which tells the patients how well they’ve managed their blood glucose levels.

Sometimes the simplest solution is the best solution.