The Mobile Phone Congress is buzzing in Barcelona, and there are signs that the sector is healthier than other parts of the global economy. Despite the downturn in economies ’round the world, mobile phones are a bright spot bringing happy ringtones to the otherwise dismal forecast in consumer spending.

According to Nielsen’s research into the mobile phone market released at the Congress, U.S. and European mobile consumers plan to increase their adoption of mobile data services in the next two years. Nearly 71% of consumers expect to use the mobile Internet on a daily basis.

According to Tellabs, “mobile data services are not a luxury, but a necessity that consumers plan to purchase despite economic conditions.”

However, consumers remain concerned about cost, speed and quality of service. Reliability of service will certainly be a key to the deployment of mobile phones for health applications.

There are already some good case studies on applications of mHealth which have proven returns-on-investment. Home health care is one area that’s ripe for mHealth. About 70% of home health agencies use manual methods to track and schedule visits to patients’ homes. Laptop computers have not yet penetrated this market due to cost. Here’s a health care market segment where mobile phones can arm the home health worker.

A good example of mHealth in home health comes from Thornberry, a home health technology vendor. Thornberry deployed their NDoc+AirClic mobile phone solution with St. Joseph’s Certified Home Health Care Agency which operates in Syracuse, NY. The agency accrued at least $67,000 in savings during the first year of implementing this system.

At the 2009 TED Conference held in early February (marking the 25th anniversary of this great conference), talked about using mobile phones for a broad range of applications, from disaster response to biology research. And, UNICEF held its Web4Dev: Innovation for Access this month, highlighting a health-monitoring program in Malawi jointly led by UNICEF and Columbia University where rural health workers are using mobile phone technology to communicate data on children’s health and get instant, expert advice on interventions.

In the innovation phase is a sort of mobile bridge application from Anvita Health (formerly SafeMed) that links the Google personal health record to mobile devices. The Mobile Viewer runs off of the Android operating system and is downloadable for free on the Anvita site. Currently, this application works only on the T-Mobile G1 Google phone.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:
mHealth applications are proliferating in emerging markets for public health programs well ahead of projects in the more developed economies. Here’s a market where the west can learn much from the east and the south.

I’m struck with the name change of SafeMed to “Anvita;” “Anvita” is the Sanskrit word for “bridging gaps in understanding.” mHealth will inevitably be a bridge to better health care for citizens throughout the world.