A report released today stated that 43% of Australians received sub-standard (below best practice) care at each visit to a general practitioner. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-07-16/healthcare-system-failing-australians/4132056. Apparently this is largely due to GPs not being up to date with the latest treatments and practices. Smart phones were suggested as a way to improve the situation.
I recently spent a couple of weeks in Africa looking at ways to increase the effectiveness and reach of mHealth initiatives. Its customary to emphasise the importance of low cost devices in developing countries. Applications that only require SMS or voice can be used by the widest number of people on the lowest cost phones with the longest battery life. Which is absolutely true if you are creating an application to be used by the general population or community health workers then this is almost certainly the sort of phone technology that should be your first preference. To some extent this is also still true in developed countries. If SMS works for your app then you should probably use it.
However I think you can make a strong case that doctors in developing countries can benefit just as much from smart phones as GPs in developed countries, if not more so. Just as mobile phones leap frogged land lines, supplying a developing country doctor with a smart phone or tablet connected to a cloud based server can be much simpler than equipping the clinic with PCs and associated medical software. It is also cost effective if that phone becomes an integral part of treating scores of patients per day and reporting health informatics.
The following diagram attempts to illustrates this.
No future for j2me phones? There does not seem to be much development happening on these phones in developed countries nowadays. I don’t think that it should be so different in developing countries. So maybe applications should either be aimed at low cost devices over SMS / Voice, or smart phones, or both.