It’s almost been a year since Econet launched its SMS-based health solutions, EcoHealth Tips. The product, with a 5 cent charge for each text message, marked the start of the mobile operator’s involvement in paid-for mobile health services which later included the controversial Dial-a-Doctor product.
Despite a bit of silence on the SMS-based health tips, Econet has held on to the service and has even carried out some additional work on it. The latest improvement has been the introduction of something called myHealthAssistant under the EcoHealth Tips menu. The tool is meant to offer subscribers a health guide as well as help them keep track of important information related to health delivery.
In addition to the guide (that provides information specific to your gender and age), you can choose to receive reminders for medical appointments, taking your prescription as well as a reminder for your child’s vaccination.
Since it’s a USSD service, it’s fairly easy to use (*147# for access to its main menu) and Econet has opted to make it a free service. You don’t need to be subscribed for the EcoHealth Tips to get it either.
In technology, they say that if something is free, you are the product. So I couldn’t help but notice how this free service is an awesome data gathering tool. Your guess as good as mine what Econet would do with that sort of data, assuming the operator is harvesting it anyway.
Without going so far as stoking the data mining conspiracies, myHealthAssiatnt seems like Econet’s attempt to add value to the EcoHealth Tips service and to penetrate the market mass market with a banner that screams out the benefits of mobile health.
Like other operators, locally and outside our borders, Econet wants to crack the mobile health segment, and any opportunity to build the market’s awareness of such services and their value will be tried repeatedly.