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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.

Link to full article in The Lancet*

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