Cell-Phone Medicine Brings Care to Patients in Developing Nations

Published in Health Affairs.

At ten o’clock in the morning, a clinic in Mexico City’s Condesa neighborhood is buzzing with activity. It serves some 7,000 patients and is operated by the Mexico City government, making it one of the largest facilities in Latin America devoted to treating patients with HIV/AIDS. More than forty people wait in line at the clinic pharmacy: hipsters in skinny black jeans; heavy-set middle-agers dressed for work. One of the tools they’ll get to fight their disease is free antiretroviral drugs provided by the national government. Another tool may be one they already have in their pockets: their cell phones.

Sitting at a white plastic table near the pharmacy, an HIV-positive man—we’ll call him Carlos—is recruiting other patients to use a system called VidaNET (LifeNET). It’s a cell phone–based system that sends text messages and e-mail to patients, reminding them to take their anti-HIV drugs, keep their doctors’ appointments, and stay up to date on their lab tests. The system also sends messages about mental health and alerts patients to supplementary resources on a Web site explaining side effects from anti-HIV medications. Carlos, a skinny man sporting an Abercrombie and Fitch baseball cap, gives the system a ringing endorsement. “I like the cell phone because texts just arrive” from VidaNET, says Carlos, who takes his medicine twice daily. “It’s really easy to use.” A banner hanging across his makeshift information booth underscores the point: “VidaNET is a technological platform that helps you self-manage your health.”

The VidaNET system, now being rolled out throughout Mexico, is just one of many health-related mobile-phone applications coming into use throughout the developing world.

Read the full article at Health Affairs.

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