mHealth is one of the most rapidly expanding fields of digital health, largely due to the increased access it offers to both consumers and healthcare professionals.
A new healthcare universe has arrived and its name is mobile health (mHealth).
The proliferation of mobile devices and digital health and wellness applications (over 15,000 of them to date), are changing the way clinicians provide care, as well as how consumers receive it.
Digital health and wellness is a global market that’s expected to grow to US$12 million due to a variety of mHealth initiatives around the world. The following provides just a sample.
mHealth in the United Kingdom
In the United Kingdom, mHealth communication systems are improving hospital care.
According to a recent study published in the journal BMJ Open, the use of smartphone- and tablet-based processes decreased length of stay, as well as adverse events at a large UK teaching hospital.
With the ability to prioritize messages, confirm interventions, and eliminate redundant steps, clinical communications were simplified to provide a more effective and timely response to care needs – which translates to improved access to essential care.
mHealth in China
In China, Qualcomm has partnered with Life Care Networks and the Community Health Association of China to make an impact on heart disease.
Using an electrocardiogram sensing handset, patients’ are able to record 30 seconds of cardiac data and transmit it electronically to the 24-hour Life Care Networks Call Center in Beijing.
There, experts are able to remotely diagnose and make treatment recommendations in real time, instead of requiring the patient to travel to receive the same level of care.
mHealth in Kenya
In Kenya, HIV/AIDS is a major public health threat, with 6.3 percent of the adult population living with a diagnosis of HIV.
Antiretroviral Treatment (ART) is the gold standard in treatment, but delivery to those in need has been hampered by poor management of records required for care.
Thanks to 3G wireless technology, the pharmaceutical management systems for ART have been enhanced - improving efficiencies for healthcare workers, quality in patient care and access to the medications most needed.
mHealth in Dubai
In Dubai, 3,000 Android tablets were distributed to patients across all its health centers in order to increase patient engagement and empowerment.
With the ability to browse digital health information and benefit from various services, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) hopes to enhance customer experience by giving patients access to the most current IT technology. According to Fahad Al Hassawi, du’s Chief Commercial Officer:
“We aim to build an ecosystem of health services, where an app will act as the central go-to point for access to relevant, personalized mobile health records, wellness devices such as Fitbit and Jawbone, and health sensors for remote patient monitoring and chronic disease management.”
mHealth in India and Sri Lanka
In India and Sri Lanka, the effectiveness of public health monitoring systems has been limited by archaic, inefficient paper processes that delay reporting of vital epidemiological information for as long as 30 days – creating inefficiencies in outbreak detection, notification, and appropriate response.
But with the Real-Time Biosurveillance Program (RTBP), timely access to essential information is being increased through ICT capabilities that are being implemented to:
“substantially shorten the latency of disease reporting, to make surveillance much more comprehensive and expressive than before, and to improve situation awareness of public health decision makers through the use of the alerting subsystem.”
mHealth in the United States
In the United States, the Veterans’ Administration (VA) provided more than 1,000 iPads to family caregivers of patients in order to enhance health communication with VA physicians, as well as other caregivers.
Using the Care Innovations Guide platform, healthcare workers will be able to provide care that is clinically driven within a remote care management system.
Features include the ability for patients to share health information that is essential to chronic care management - such as weight, blood pressure and glucose levels.
Clinicians are then provided with a more comprehensive view of the patient’s current status and can make appropriate treatment recommendations.
mHealth in Mexico
In Mexico, diabetes is the most significant chronic health disease, with a 25% increase within the last decade, and 14% of the population with the disease less than 40 years old.
There, 3G wireless internet access is being used to improve care for individuals in remote communities through use of a mHealth application to enhance communications between healthcare workers in Tijuana and patients in outlying areas.
This mHealth application allows patients to access videos and diabetes educational information, and return interactive questionnaires to healthcare providers.
Results are instantly available to providers to enable review and follow-up with alerts to patients who have abnormal results, or fail to adhere to established regimens.
mHealth in Japan
In Japan, mHealth is being used to monitor vital data from seniors and patients with lifestyle diseases who live in remote regions, or in areas that have a scarcity of physicians.
Through medical devices with integrated 3G modules, residents can send information such as blood pressure readings, weight, and activity levels to be shared with physicians in urban centers for analysis and adjustment of treatment protocols.
According to Kazuaki Shimamoto, MD, PhD, president and chairperson of Sapporo Medical University:
“In Japan, there are areas where it is difficult to see a specialist and there are quite a few patients who don’t receive adequate medical services…With quick and simple monitoring of blood pressure at home and the ability to receive remote treatment by specialists, this project is an important step in improving medical access.”
Improving access doesn’t just apply to consumers, but to healthcare providers as well.
A recent study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research concluded that mHealth devices give healthcare providers easy and timely access to patient information and help them to:
- Document more accurately
- Increase access to evidence-based decision support and patient care systems that improve clinical decisions and patient outcomes
- Increase work efficiency
In the GCC, mHealth is experiencing rapid growth due to a ripe technological environment and its ability to meet many of the regions unique needs – such as remote access, chronic disease management, and support for better lifestyle choices.
Since evidence suggests that mHealth can improve care, provide better access to patient information, and address lifestyle issues such as smoking cessation, weight loss, physical activity, diabetes management, and hypertension – it seems the answer to many of the GCC’s digital health and wellness needs may actually be contained within the mini-but-mighty power of a mHealth computing device.
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