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University of Aberdeen to deliver rural m-healthcare

Academic institution to collaborate with Indian government on mobile technology venture

University of Aberdeen researchers are collaborating with the Indian government on the development of trusted mobile technology for rural healthcare.

The aim of the three-year project is to explore the potential of mobile technologies to improve the management of chronic diseases in rural areas of the UK and India.

Two common chronic conditions, diabetes and depression, will be the focus of the developed platform.

The initiative is part of a £7 million package of projects called Bridging the Urban and Rural Divide (BURD), which is being funded in the UK by the Research Councils UK (RCUK).

TRUMP (Trusted Mobile Platform for the Self-Management of Chronic Illness in Rural Areas) is a three-year "m-health" project being led in the UK by Professor Peter Edwards of the University of Aberdeen. In the UK the project involves the universities of Aberdeen, Newcastle, City, Lancaster and Northumbria.

Indian partners in TRUMP are the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (India lead), International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, both in New Delhi.

The total value of the funding awarded is £2.9 million, with £1.7 million of this going to the UK partners.

Professor Edwards said: "Trust lies at the centre of any m-health solution. Patients must feel that systems have been designed for 'people just like them' and must be confident that their medical information is managed in a secure and reliable fashion."

He said healthcare professionals must have confidence that systems cannot harm the patient, and policy makers need to be satisfied that systems take account of drivers for future health services and enterprises. Developing a platform which combines the necessary hardware and software elements to meet these requirements is the focus of TRUMP, said Edwards.

TRUMP will incorporate existing proven chronic management programmes and training. New patient record systems, mechanisms for tracking the patient (symptoms and behaviour), and raising awareness of how the patient can manage their condition are all expected outcomes of the project.

While the UK and India have very different practices and structures for healthcare delivery, the effective management of chronic illness is a priority for both countries, said Edwards, and patients in rural areas pose particular challenges.

This is particularly relevant in India, with 71 percent of the population in rural areas. While fewer than one in five people in the UK are rural dwellers, large parts of the country are sparsely populated. For example, in Scotland, 29 percent of the population live in rural areas.

Mobile health apps will be used by 500 million people within five years, according to analyst research2guidance.

Ralf-Gordon Jahns, head of research at research2guidance, said that while the potential benefits of mobile health applications have been widely discussed for more than a decade, the market is only now ready to take off.

He said: "Our findings indicate that the long expected mobile revolution in healthcare is set to happen. Both healthcare providers and consumers are embracing smartphones as a means to improving healthcare."

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