Is mobile technology a boon or a bane? We expect technology to make life more accessible and painless. We think smartphones will give us the ability to reach out to people across borders to make communicating much simpler, but who thought that it could take care of many more things. Not many expected that something known as “mHealth” (Mobile health) would make it easier for individuals to check their personal health records on smartphones or other mobile devices? No wonder it is called a “smartphone”. But, has this access to mobile technology inflated the hopes of not only healthcare practitioners but the public in general?
Apart from smartphones there are many other mobile tools and apps that help you access your health records. So you don’t have to go through the problematic procedure of calling to make an appointment, many practitioner’s offices have the ability to make and cancel appointments on their websites, sometimes they even have a way to check in to reduce your wait time when you get to the office. Wow! Isn’t that convenient.
Let’s define mHealth. It refers to transfer of health data and services via mobile communication devices like smartphones, tablets, PDA’s etc. There are many factors that have given rise to the development of mHealth including the rapid advances in mobile technologies and applications, integration of mobile health with the e-health services, improvements in telecommunication technology infrastructure, and increase in coverage of mobile cellular networks.
In this article, we are going to discuss the mHealth tools and apps and how they are changing our lives. Let us checkout the trends in mobile devices that help monitor our health.
• Mobile Phones/Smartphones:
Earlier mobile phones were used as a medium to communicate among people, but now it is used on a larger scale for professional reasons in various industries. The out of clinic use of software applications and hardware attached to the smartphones is one of the trends seen in the healthcare sector. This has given rise to patients taking active participation in their healthcare. Smartphones have paved ways to check your weight, blood pressure levels, sugar levels etc. using various medical devices. More than 70% of the nurses use their personal mobile devices to fill the gap between them and patients. Mobile applications help patients to stay in contact with their doctors even when they are at home, office or out for a town. Patients that have chronic conditions can be managed via mobile, even pregnant women are consulted via text.
Tablets are compact minicomputers that are easily taken along as compared to a personal computer that sits on your desk at your home or office. With these compact-portable devices one can track their health records, exchange health information and avoid delays with the help of the Tablet. In an article by tabtimes.com it was concluded that doctors are 250% more likely to own a tablet than other consumers (Infographic) making them prime users. The newest tablets and smart phones support pen navigation and one can also write on screen and convert it to printed text, for doctors, this makes it is easier to record and share health information. The many tools such as built in cameras that are included with tablets allow doctors to visually track healthcare information such as wound-care management which requires the doctor to track the treatment and the results. Another example of why tablets can be extremely helpful in a clinical setting is the dissemination of Lab results which can be easily received and sent by doctors or nurses. Since your insurance information can be collected electronically, helping both insurance companies and medical offices to take care of the Revenue Cycle Management portion of a patient’s visit. Some of the popular tablets are iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Amazon Kindle Fire, Microsoft Surface Pro etc.
PDA’s also known as personal digital assistants are another form of mobile device. In the past few years PDA’s have become less popular than laptops, tablets or smartphones, but there are still people who use these devices so limited development is still being done. How do PDAs help achieve clinical goals? The user can access inpatient and outpatient data, billing and you can use it for decision support system. According to sources, during the boom of the PDA, data collection quality and appropriateness of diagnosis and treatment decisions was improved with the use of these digital assistants. PDA’s are used by medical students to record their findings in the patient care space. But the popularity and quality of PDA’s is still a question mark as compared to other devices. Even though PDA’s help provide much evidence based resources to the nurses, PDA’s are not commonly used by nurses or clinicians.
The latest trend in the mobile segment is the Smartwatch. The expected release of Apple’s iWatch is already creating a furor in the smartwatch segment. But is it really worth the enthusiasm? There are talks that Smartwatches are good for health and fitness market but not for healthcare. Some say, that it does not support many activities that can help the healthcare sector. People are looking forward to the release of Apple’s iWatch which is built on their Healthkit platform, hoping that it will help integrate fitness and healthcare market.
• Health Apps:
There are many doctor-patient friendly apps released in the recent past which are changing the healthcare scenario altogether. The number of mobile apps has skyrocketed so swiftly that you can find more than 40000 medical apps available for smartphones and tablets. Health apps helps us manage sleep, eat healthier, monitor blood pressures, track pregnancies etc. The best part of apps is that it makes health care so interesting and fun. Some of the healthcare apps are Hello Doctor which helps to check health records electronically, HealthTap provides health answers and tips from 47,000 U.S doctors, GoodRx compares prices for prescription drugs for more than 6000 drugs, GoMeals is an application for healthy living that helps you track your calories and glucose levels. There are even apps to connect with your doctor directly through their patient portal, you can ask your doctor which app is the one they use for secure communication.
BYOD also known as “Bring your own device” is a policy that permits and encourages employees to use their personal mobile devices for work to access company information, this will definitely help to make m-health more accessible and increase its use. What we can hope for with the increased use of mhealth in our daily lives, we will become more involved in decisions about our healthcare, encouraging us to make lifestyle changes to improve our general health and fitness