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New report demonstrates the need for systematic use of mobile technology in healthcare


24 March 2006, A new report published by Vodafone Group today (24 March 2005) shows how current mobile technology can increase productivity, improve patient health and enable greater access to healthcare. Mobile technology has the potential to support Governments in their attempts to drive efficiency in healthcare costs(1) and improve overall levels of service.

The Role of Mobile Phones in Increasing Accessibility and Efficiency in Healthcare contains new research by Imperial College’s Tanaka Business School in association with NHS Direct, the University of Dundee and the Office of Health Economics Consulting.

This report is the first time that mobile’s contribution to healthcare has been systematically reviewed. It demonstrates benefits to patients through text message (SMS) self-care programmes and highlights efficiency gains in healthcare delivery. Key findings include:

* Potential savings of between £240-370 million a year to the NHS in England alone by the introduction of SMS appointment reminders to patients (2)
* Improvement in glucose levels of 10% for young people with diabetes who manage their condition using a SMS support system. This level of improvement can potentially reduce diabetes related complications such as blindness by 76% and kidney disease by 50%
* Potential cost savings of up to £1.9 million per 1000 patients if a SMS support system is introduced into treatment programmes for tuberculosis (TB) patients. The SMS support system also leads to a reduction in deaths
* Calls to NHS Direct by mobile are increasing four times faster than calls made through landlines, especially by people who were previously low users of NHS services

Alan Harper, Director of Vodafone Group Strategy, said: “Mobile epitomises the essential requirements for the transfer of health information: privacy, confidentiality, timeliness and direct personal communication. We recognise that mobile is not the panacea for all challenges in the healthcare sector but, with penetration rates of over 90% for 15 to 44 year olds in the UK, it does have an important role to play in helping transform service provision.”

Dr Rifat Atun, Director of the Centre for Health Management at Tanaka Business School, said: “This report has many examples of how mobile can increase efficiency, improve patients’ ability to monitor and self-manage chronic conditions, and promote better adherence to drug treatment. All of this is delivered using basic mobile applications, voice and SMS, and achieved at minimal additional cost. Healthcare policy makers and commissioners must introduce mobile systematically within healthcare if we are to take full advantage of its potential.”

Dr Mike Sadler, Medical Director of NHS Direct, concluded: “NHS Direct has revolutionised patient access to the NHS. Mobile is playing an important part in this. We know that the use of mobile in healthcare is acceptable to the public, and the benefits are available now. However, it is under-utilised at present. This report brings together a number of different studies and shows how mobile offers genuine opportunities to address the challenges of healthcare in the 21st century.”

A copy of the report can be downloaded from

Notes to editors

* Healthcare costs in Western Europe are rising faster than both population and GDP. In 1960 average healthcare spending in the then 15 member states was 3.9% of GDP; in 2003, it was 9.4%.
* Trials have shown that SMS reminders lead to a 30-50% decline in missed hospital and doctors appointments. If extrapolated, this could save the NHS in England £240-£370 million a year - almost half its predicted deficit for 2005-06.
* The Role of Mobile Phones in Increasing Accessibility and Efficiency in Healthcare was developed as part of Vodafone Group Plc’s ongoing programme exploring the socio-economic impact of mobile phones. The report contains five papers as follows:
* The upward trend in healthcare spend
* Analysis of calls to NHS Direct
* A review of the characteristics and benefits of SMS in delivering healthcare
* The potential of SMS applications for the control of tuberculosis
* Use of mobile technologies to enhance control of type 1 diabetes in young people: economic evaluation
* Vodafone provides a full range of mobile telecommunications services, including voice and data communications. Vodafone has equity interests in 27 countries and Partner Networks in a further 32 countries, with a proportionate customer base of over 179 million. For more information, please visit
* Consistently rated in the top three UK university institutions, Imperial College London is a world leading science-based university whose reputation for excellence in teaching and research attracts students (11,000) and staff (6,000) of the highest international quality. Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and management and delivers practical solutions that enhance the quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.

Imperial College’s Tanaka Business School is a world-class provider of business education and research, focusing primarily on Imperial strengths in innovation and entrepreneurship, finance and healthcare management. The School offers full-time and executive MBAs, Masters programmes in Finance, Risk Management, International Health Management and Management; and a PhD programme. For more information on Tanaka Business School, visit
* As well as NHS Direct’s established telephone service, handling about 600,000 calls each month, the NHS Direct delivers self-care advice, helps to inform patients, and supports access to local health services in more ways than ever before. The NHS Direct Online website ( is one of the most popular health websites in the UK, receiving about 1 million visits each month. NHS Direct Interactive, the largest interactive public service on digital TV, provides health information to 7.9 million homes. The NHS Direct self-help guide has been delivered to 18 million homes as part of the Thomson Local directory.
* Background on Office of Health Economics Consulting (to be added)


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