The United States is not alone in its enduring healthcare dilemma.
Around the world, the provision of accessible and affordable healthcare is undeniably challenged by a shortage of skilled healthcare professionals, the physical distance between patients and their providers, and the high cost of essential healthcare equipment. With epidemics of infectious and chronic illnesses affecting both developed and developing countries, there is an urgent need to use innovative, technology-supported innovations to transform the manner in which medical care is delivered to populations. Increasing the use of electronic and mobile health (mHealth) systems for medical service delivery not only improves access to care, but also saves money while providing higher levels of quality care.
What is mHealth?
You may keep hearing about “mHealth” and how it’s modernizing medicine and healthcare, but how exactly does mHealth work? Many of us use our phones and various mobile applications to manage our email, calendars and even our friends, but it is now time to think about how we can use these apps to manage our health. Better yet, it is time to understand the role that these devices can play in improving access to healthcare around the world.
MHealth is simply the use of mobile and wireless devices to improve health outcomes, healthcare services and health research. It is single-handedly revolutionizing medicine and healthcare delivery by virtually connecting patients with their providers, such as remote heart monitoring. Through the use of mobile applications, wearable sensors and remote monitoring devices, patients can manage their own conditions under the remote supervision of a healthcare provider. Such technology also enables providers and patients to access the most up-to-date information on diagnostics, treatments and medications through SMS and smart-device applications.
How can mHealth improve access to care?
In a time where the medical field is combatting a shortage of physicians and individuals are challenged by the affordability of healthcare, technology that enables remote care should be embraced. Just last week, a Brookings Institute study indicated that 75% of healthcare costs are associated with cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and asthma. These are the very diseases where the use of mobile technology can be used to better improve health outcomes and quality of life, and to reduce medical costs.
One popular category of mHealth applications is diabetes management, which supports the transfer of blood glucose data to mobile phone tracking records , thereby allowing patients and providers to more easily identify problem spots and fix them. Other applications may include tools for asthma patients that support the use of remote sensors to help asthmatics better identify environmental triggers through mapping when and where attacks happen.
So what now?
Easy access to mHealth tools is vital to the future of healthcare and to effective communication between providers and patients. To expedite mHealth’s positive impact on healthcare, the Brookings Institute suggests that governments remove any existing barriers to the adoption of mobile disease management applications and help make these tools more widely available.
What kinds of mobile applications or remote monitoring devices do you use to personally manage your health or to communicate with your health provider?