M-HEALTH: MOBILE DEVICES WILL HELP DELIVER BETTER CARE FOR LESS
Indeed, it’s likely that m-health will be at the heart of innovative solutions that could ultimately redefine healthcare delivery.
- Digital Transformation of Care Delivers Benefits
- M-Health is Growing Worldwide
- Yet There Are Barriers to M-Health
- M-Health Can Boost the Economy
- SUPPORTING PREVENTIVE MEDICINE
- Turning Patients into Active Participants
- CONTRIBUTING TO MORE EFFICIENT HEALTHCARE
- ACCELERATING THE ADOPTION OF M-HEALTH SOLUTIONS
M-health has the potential to revolutionise our approach to medical care, impacting every aspect of health, from prevention to diagnosis to treatment.
POSITIVE FEEDBACK LOOPS
Patient-monitored vital signs that are automatically reported to healthcare providers can help physicians spot acute medical conditions, as well as help detect chronic conditions at an early stage. Self-assessment and remote diagnosis permit more timely intervention and treatment, since patients don’t have to wait to get an appointment with their doctor to receive medical care.
And, by giving early warnings about potential health problems to come, patients could be motivated to make healthier lifestyle choices, which might extend their life expectancy.
M-HEALTH SOLUTIONS WORLDWIDE
Over the past three years, the number of m-health apps worldwide has more than doubled to well above 165,000. A recent study showed that about 25% of available apps focused on disease management and treatment, while the rest focused on general fitness and lifestyle management. Disease and treatment management apps are projected to increase, given their potential to improve patient care while reducing costs.
Examples of innovative m-health initiatives abound. There are numerous mobile phone applications for diabetes patients to help them self-monitor symptoms and blood glucose levels. Other apps, linked to doctors, guide patients through a series of questions asked by the remote doctor in order to diagnose medical conditions and provide treatment from a distance. Home health nurses in the US use m-health apps installed on tablets to track patients’ symptoms and vital signs. If nurses need a doctor’s opinion on how a surgical incision looks, for example, they can snap a picture and share it in real-time with the patient’s doctor. This has obvious benefits for ill or housebound patients who can avoid the stress and difficulty of getting to the doctor’s office. It also helps keep them out of the hospital by proactively monitoring their symptoms , avoiding rehospitalisation.
Health and fitness apps have also been shown to be helpful in reducing obesity. There are hundreds of apps available for mobile phones and tablets that help people collect real-time information on calories consumed and calories burned, by tracking food and physical activity. The log helps users see their progress and data collected can be shared with healthcare providers and social networks, encouraging users to maintain healthier lifestyle choices.
Aside from apps, m-health has other ways of impacting care delivery. In Mexico, breast cancer is the leading cause of death of women between the ages of 50-69. An m-health programme aimed at increasing breast cancer screening for women in rural areas linked thirty screening sites in eleven Mexican states to two national radiology centers where the results were reviewed by specialists. With the assistance of m-health technology, rural women were granted much better access to vital cancer screenings.
Any time patients are isolated—whether due to physical or geographical limitations—m-health initiatives have the potential to bridge the gap between patients and healthcare. And even when patients regularly visit their doctors, m-health tools can improve patient care by giving patients the ability to collect more useful data and communicate more easily with their healthcare providers.
Telemedicine: Opportunities and developments in member states, World Health Organization, 2010
Spotlight on Prevention: When, Who and How?
Unhealthy lifestyles and lack of physical activity are key factors in the development of chronic diseases. Early prevention and diagnosis, better education, and above all collaboration among governments, patient organizations, and industry are crucial to prevent chronic diseases from arising.