Can mHealth Save The World From Ebola?

Believe it or not, this Ebola outbreak is not the first.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the first-ever Ebola outbreak occurred 38 years ago in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The year was 1976, and the virus took about 280 lives and had an astonishing fatality rate of 88%.  It has been almost four decades since then and the world is still struggling to find a means to control this deadly disease. As of today, there have been 25 individual outbreaks reported on the African continent alone.  Why are we in the same place as we were in 1976?

It's clear that the world is still as clueless about the Ebola virus as it was back then. After confirmation that the Dallas nurse who treated Thomas Eric Duncan contracted Ebola, the USA registered its first case of a person to be infected with the disease on its own land. Ironically, despite America probably spending more on healthcare than any other country in the world, the message from US medical experts remains:  “We probably need to rethink the way we address Ebola infection control because even a single infection is unacceptable.”

Where is the initiative?  Is anybody even doing anything?

Well, if you are from a medical background, you probably know that four decades isn’t a large span of time in the medical field--especially to eradicate a critical virus such as Ebola. The industry moves at a snail’s pace because doctors and scientists must extensively research, develop, and test remedies for disease before releasing them for public use.  Currently, the world’s experts are still in the research phase of finding a cure for Ebola.  Therefore, there is certainly no reason to blame the medical industry for not yet finding a solution after 38 years.

Trust in Technology

On the other hand, technology has grown at lightning speed since the 1970s. The scale of technological development has been so massive that the whole world has been turned upside-down. People are more connected than ever before and news from one corner of the world can travel at a fraction of a second to the other. Now, the point that I am trying to make is that there may be no medicine yet to kill the Ebola virus, but why are we not using technology to prevent its outbreak? Don’t you think technology could be the answer to fighting Ebola or any other contagious disease?

Thanks to technology, telemedicine has evolved into a part of mainstream healthcare. “Telemedicine” refers the use of telecommunication and information technologies in order to provide clinical health care at a distance. Telemedicine improves physician accessibility and provides cost-effective medical services to patients. It not only makes doctors more efficient, but also saves a lot on turnaround time. This is why it becomes all the more reasonable to use eHealth or mHealth technologies in a situation like an Ebola outbreak, where the doctors are trying to treat patients with a disease that is contagious and fatal.

I think it is the responsibility of people to make use of technology to overcome an epidemic like this one. More doctors should promote the use of eHealth and mHealth technology and provide their patients with such medical services. Telemedical mobile apps and software should be adopted to avoid direct contact between people, especially in cases of initial diagnoses of contagious diseases. I am confident that telemedicine, eHealth, and mHealth are the future of healthcare and will save the world from epidemics like Ebola!