Mobile phone technologies could prevent tuberculosis (TB) patients from abandoning treatment a problem that can affect up to 20 per cent of patients in developing countries.
Patients abandon treatment due to side-effects or because they feel better, rendering them infectious for longer, and making them more likely to relapse and die or develop resistant strains.
The WHO recommends a regime known as DOTS (directly observed treatment, short course) in which a health worker watches the patient take their antibiotics. But this is inaccessible for many patients, expensive and human-resource intensive.
To help combat this, companies are harnessing increasing access to mobile phones even in the poorest parts of the world to remind patients to take their medication.
The technologies include a pill bottle that sends a message to a central server when opened; patients dialling into a server after taking medication and patients generating a code to send to a server by urinating on a diagnostic which detects whether they have taken their drug.
Questions have been raised as to whether mobile phone technologies can effectively replace face-to-face contact, but others note that mobile phone technologies enable health workers to monitor a greater number of patients, as well as freeing them to focus on patients who require most attention.
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