SMS Clinic

furthering mobile health research


We're a group of students from Columbia University working on projects in the field of mobile health (mHealth). Our team brings together people from a variety of disciplines, and we share the common belief that mHealth has great potential to provide effective and inexpensive solutions to major health problems, particularly in developing nations.


The field of telemedicine came into being in the 20th century as a result of the rapid development of various networking technologies. The principle of telemedicine is to use telecommunication technology to deliver healthcare services. Mobile health (mHealth) is a more specific area of the field that relies on mobile phones. mHealth applications can serve a variety of purposes, and have functioned as standalone tools, as well as integrations into established health systems. 

The prospects of mHealth applications have dramatically improved for a number of reasons. Among those are decreased cost of mobile technologies, greater opportunities for integration into existing health systems, and seemingly limitless growth in the coverage of mobile cellular networks. For example, in The Gambia, mobile phone penetration has been measured at 120%, which means that there are on average 1.2 phones per person.


Mobile health is still a relatively new field, and its prospects in developing countries, where it has the highest potential for impact, remain unclear. Nonetheless, there have been successful implementations of mHealth applications, and we view that there is great potential for this field. SMS Clinic hopes to contribute to a growing body of evidence that demonstrates the effectiveness of mHealth interventions, and their potential to be scaled.

We have chosen Gambia as the place to carry out our study for a couple of reasons: the country could benefit significantly from mHealth systems, and its high mobile phone penetration rate makes it a feasible location to find numerous participants. In The Gambia, the doctor-to-patient ratio is 1:9000, which leads to strained resources, long lines, and short visits with doctors. Therefore, there is potential for using mHealth applications as low-cost tools to ease the burden on strained healthcare resources, and provide people with information that will help keep them healthy and out of the hospital. The long-term goal of SMS Clinic is to work on projects that provide solutions to big healthcare problems.