Mobile health (mHealth) is the delivery of healthcare services via mobile communication devices such as smartphones, tablets, patient monitors and so on.
Mobile health applications help collect valuable community and clinical health data and enable practitioners, researchers and patients to deliver healthcare information on a regular basis.
With rapid improvements in mobile communications infrastructure, mHealth is now being widely adapted all over the world. Both first-world and developing countries actively use mHealth applications for delivery of healthcare related information.
The number of health-related smartphone apps are growing rapidly and it’s predicted that about 500 million patients will be using such apps by the year 2015 (1).
With that said, here are 7 ways how mobile health is transforming the world of healthcare…
1. Education and awareness programs
The United Nations and other government organizations are regularly conducting education and awareness programs in third-world countries to spread awareness about various diseases and their prevention methods. Information about these conditions is regularly distributed to the public via short message services (SMS).
SMS messages are non-intrusive and can help spread awareness about confidential subjects that are considered taboo in certain cultures.
One of the greatest benefits of SMS based awareness programs is that they allow the organizations to effectively reach the public in rural areas where healthcare resources are limited.
Nurse-run call center helplines are available in both first world and third world countries. Individuals can contact these helplines to access a wide range of medical services.
In countries such as the United States, Telehealth providers have systems that allow patients to consult with doctors remotely via video-conferencing equipment and seek medical advice for non-emergency conditions.
3. Diagnostic support and treatment support systems
Diagnostic and treatment support systems enable healthcare workers to remotely diagnose patient’s illnesses and treat them.
Telehealth providers, such as MDLIVE, allow patients to take a photograph of their illness or wound and allow a physician to remotely diagnose and recommend treatment for the medical problem.
Such diagnostic and treatment support systems reduce the cost and time of travel for patients leading hectic lives.
4. Communication and training of healthcare workers
mHealth applications also enable two physicians to directly communicate via video-conference or the telephone to discuss a patient’s case or even conduct surgeries remotely.
There are also certain other mobile health projects that allow instructors to train healthcare workers remotely with video-conferencing equipment and LCD screens.
Quality training for healthcare professionals is done remotely in various developing countries as it is cheaper and helps improve retention.
5. Remote data collection and disease surveillance
For certain chronic illnesses, mobile health applications allow healthcare providers to collect data about their patients remotely and examine their day to day lifestyles to ensure effective management of the illness.
Many healthcare providers make use of cloud-connected blood pressure and heart-rate monitors to track the blood pressure and heart-rate of patients that are at risk.
They also allow patients to provide information of any post-operative pain (or side-effects) they experience and aid in accountability when it comes to intake of medications and following the prescribed exercise and diet patterns.
Studies such as the one conducted in the Veteran Health Administration at Michigan (2) provide evidence of how remote data collection via mobile health applications can be valuable in managing chronic illnesses such as diabetes.
6. Epidemic diseases outbreak tracking
There are several medical projects that help track outbreak of epidemic diseases during emergencies by enabling physicians and other healthcare workers to transmit information quickly to the Ministries of health and other healthcare organizations.
Such information can help emergency relief organizations identify the exact location of the outbreak and assign appropriate medical resources to areas with greatest need.
7. Data collection in remote locations
One of the biggest benefits of mobile healthcare is in its ability to influence policymaker’s decisions with the accurate health data it provides.
Policymakers in the third-world nations (especially in Africa) lack the necessary field information to gauge the effectiveness of existing policies and programs.
This is mainly because a very small percentage of the population has access to hospitals. Patients, even those with terminal illnesses, rarely visit hospitals.
Mobile health projects in such locations can help gather real world field data about existing policies and epidemic diseases and help shape new effective policies.
- Wolf, J.A. et al. “Diagnostic Inaccuracy of Smartphone Applications for Melanoma Detection.” JAMA Dermatology 149, no. 4 (2013): 422-426.
- Use of Telehealth in Diabetes Management – http://www.implementationscience.com/content/2/1/14