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Title: Mobile phone diffusion and rural heathcare access in India and China
Author: Haenssgen, Marco Johannes
ISNI:       0000 0004 6062 2223
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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Three decades of mobile phone diffusion, thousands of mobile-phone-based health projects worldwide ("mHealth"), and tens of thousands of health applications in Apple's iTunes store, but fundamental questions about the effect of phone diffusion on people's healthcare behaviour remain unanswered. Empirical, theoretical, and methodological gaps in the study of mobile phones and health reinforce each other and lead to simplifying assumptions that mobile phones are a ubiquitous and neutral platform for interventions to improve health and healthcare. This contradicts what we know from the technology adoption literature. This thesis explores the theoretical link between mobile phone diffusion and healthcare access; develops and tests a new multidimensional indicator of mobile phone adoption; and analyses the effects of phone use on people's healthcare-seeking behaviour. My mixed methods research design - implemented in rural Rajasthan (India) and Gansu (China) - involves qualitative research with 231 participants and primary survey data from 800 persons. My research yields a qualitatively grounded framework that describes the accessibility and suitability of mobile phones in healthcare-seeking processes, the heterogeneous outcomes of phone use and non-use on healthcare access, and the uneven equity consequences in this process. Quantitative analysis based on the framework finds that mobile phone use in rural India and China increases access to healthcare, but it also invites more complex and delayed health behaviours and the over-use of scarce healthcare resources. Moreover, increasing phone-aided health action threatens to marginalise socio-economically disadvantaged groups further. I present here the first quantitative evidence on how mobile phone adoption influences healthcare-seeking behaviour. This challenges the common view that mHealth interventions operate on a neutral platform and draws attention to potential targeting, user acceptance, and sustainability problems. The framework and tools developed in this thesis can support policy considerations for health systems to evaluate and address the healthcare implications of mobile phone diffusion.
Supervisor: Ariana, Proochista ; Fu, Xiaolan ; Reed-Tsochas, Felix Sponsor: Scatcherd European Scholarship ; Economic and Social Research Council ; John Fell OUP Research Fund
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Wireless communication systems in medical care ; Telecommunication in medicine--Developing Countries ; Cell phone systems--Social aspects--India ; Cell phone systems--Social aspects--China ; Medical care--Technological innovations ; Public health--India ; Public health--China