We are smarter, faster and more efficient thanks to digital innovations. Likewise, technology can help industries provide products and services more cost effectively than ever before. But when it comes to delivering health care, we often talk about health and technology in silos. In India, where I live, over one billion people have mobile phones, but we are only beginning to think about how to use mobile technology to effectively improve maternal health – even though we have the second highest number of maternal deaths globally.
I believe that mobile technology can help us accelerate the improvements we need to make to deliver on maternal health. I’m particularly excited about the potential of mobile health to improve health knowledge, so that women have the information they need to recognize and demand quality maternity care. Using digital technology to access health related information could empower women to broaden their options of healthcare providers and services and in doing so, determine their own health care journey.
In 2017, our team at Avegen conducted a study to understand women’s roles in the maternal healthcare decision making process in India. We explored how women’s feedback can be amplified and structured to drive quality of care improvements. Our study found two key reasons that prevent women from using the Internet to search for maternal health care information: lack of trust in accuracy of online content and lack of awareness. A mother can be empowered by the Internet only if she can trust the content of a website as much as she trusts information from her social circle and doctors. We need platforms that share the reliable information women need and facilitate the creation of online communities that empower consumers to share their own experiences.
Consumer empowerment is already transforming many other industries, such as travel, retail, and banking. It’s time to do the same for health care. Most programs address maternal health by focusing on the providers’ side while far fewer empower women with a voice on their care. Putting the right information in the hands of healthcare consumers and facilitating a dialogue between the consumer and the healthcare provider can bring about transformative change in how health care is delivered over the next decade. We are demonstrating this with Together for Her Health, a web- and mobile-based platform that educates women on what quality maternity care should look like and offers the opportunity to anonymously rate the quality of care they receive. Feedback is then made available to other women and providers, creating a “feedback loop” for all parties. The program thus creates a structured demand for improvement from mothers. Today, with the support of MSD for Mothers, we have received over 16,800 mothers’ reviews which are visible to their healthcare providers and to other pregnant women who use their peers’ feedback to make their own decisions about where to deliver. Providers are using consumers’ feedback to inform quality improvement efforts in their facilities, and women are empowered to make more informed choices about the care they need.
Using consumer feedback to elevate women’s voices and equipping healthcare providers to use patient feedback to improve quality are just some of the ways we leverage digital healthcare technology to improve maternal health, reducing maternal deaths in India and driving us towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Learn more about how mobile tech is mobilizing maternal health in our latest digital report.
The content of this blog is solely the responsibility of the author and does not represent the official views of MSD. MSD for Mothers is an initiative of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ , USA.
Dr. Aakash Ganju is an entrepreneur and the Co-Founder of Avegen, a mission driven healthcare company that uses technology to design human centered experiences for patients. Trained in medicine and management, Aakash has led large research teams at Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson and developed mobile health solutions for underserved populations in India and Africa. For the last 10 years, he has led multi-partner consortia to develop and deploy sustainable health technology solutions serving patients in the HIV and women’s health domains. Previously, Aakash worked with the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action to launch a large-scale maternal messaging program in India. Avegen recently launched Together, a digital platform that uses feedback from mothers to drive improvements in providers’ quality of care indicators.
Aakash is a keen student of emerging mobile trends in India (particularly in urban underserved segments) and their implications for scaled digital health solutions. He is also the author of “A Glass Half-Full,” a recently published book on healthcare innovation in India. Aakash is passionate about the role of collaboration, technology, human centricity and win-win solutions to build health care experiences of the future.
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