Mobile healthcare (mHealth)  solutions are here to stay
15 March 2013

Mobile healthcare (mHealth) solutions are here to stay

m-Health has recently exploded because patients, nurses, and doctors are actively using mobile apps in their daily lives to simplify and accomplish tasks while they are on-the-go.

m-Health has recently exploded because patients, nurses, and doctors are actively using mobile apps in their daily lives to simplify and accomplish tasks while they are on-the-go. Expectations have changed and there is an app for just about every health care clinical and administrative function (Larkin, 2011).

For example, patients with kidney stones can reduce their health risks by drinking more fluids. A popular free app was developed with a series of icons of common beverages. Users tap the icon for the particular beverage and enter the quantity. The app calculates the percentage of the daily-recommended water intake target and tracks the trends. The patient can email the trend data directly to their physician with a single touch. Most patients observed that they were typically not drinking enough fluid in an average day (Larkin, 2011) and they knew exactly what they needed to do to reach their targets by receiving continuous feedback from the app. Consumer Mobile Health Apps

In November 2011 there were more than 17,000 medical applications available for download in the major app stores for the iPhone, iPad, Android, Microsoft Mobile, Blackberry,

Palm, and Symbian operating systems (Larkin, 2011). This is the consumer side of the m-Health market and does not include the many mobile apps that exist or are being developed by traditional health care providers, device manufacturers, pharmaceutical manufacturers and researchers around the world.

Home Monitoring and Mobile Monitoring Devices

Mobile apps for dedicated devices linked to glucometers and blood pressure cuffs are
now extremely common (e.g. VerioIQ). New mobile applications that take advantage of the accelerometer and GPS capabilities of the latest smartphones detect and automatically report patient falls and help locate patients with dementia. Bluetooth enabled weighing scales and other home sensor technologies are become more prevalent for the automated home monitoring of a wide range of clinical conditions.

Mobile Apps in the Health Care Centre

Applications for monitoring patients and accessing electronic records inside health care
centres using smartphones and tablet devices are proliferating. All electronic medical record software vendors now offer mobile interfaces that are native mobile apps. These apps allow health care professionals to look up patient information and review charts, notes, lab results, diagnostic images, and medications directly from their mobile devices. Some apps let physicians e-prescribe, conduct scheduling, and update health records from anywhere on a secure wireless network.

Norris and colleagues (2009) developed a list of the most common m-Health solutions that will be popular in health care settings that span prevention, monitoring, treatment, and support functions:

 

  • "Public health and lifestyle messages over mobile phones
  • Medication alerts using mobile phones
  • E-prescribing for repeat prescriptions via mobile phones
  • Telemonitoring to transmit patient results to clinicians
  • Transmission of test results to patients via SMS messages
  • Online electronic health records via computer or phone
  • Web access to evidence-based databases
  • Emergency care for accidents, natural disasters
  • Efficient workflow via wireless communication
  • Rapid collection or sharing of current data via mobile phones
  • Patient or asset (e.g. equipment) location using RFID
  • Patient appointment booking and alerts via wireless e-mail
  • Safety of staff checks with RFID or mobile phones or networks" (Norris et al., 2009, p.247)

 

The final trend is the empowerment of patients to view their electronic medical record (EMR) over the Internet using encrypted connections. This will naturally extend to mobile access over time.

Mobile Remote Access To Workstations

Citrix has created a bridging tool that lets mobile devices connect to workstations using remote access screen mirroring technology. If a mobile app is not available for a specific system, Citrix mobile connection software can be used to connect remotely to a workstation to complete these tasks in the interim.

M-Health Is Here To Stay

"By 2015, 500 million of an estimated 1.4 billion smart phone users worldwide will use an m-Health app—and millions of U.S. baby boomers will be at the forefront" (Larkin, 2011, p. 24). Industry experts have also observed a trend that has been called "the iPad effect". Nineteen million iPads were sold in the nine months after the iPad was introduced.

Physicians have embraced the iPad because they are lightweight, easy to carry, have over 10 hours of battery life, display digital diagnostic images in vivid detail, and the iPad frees them from their workstation. Busy physicians view the iPad as an essential tool that fully meets their mobile needs. Physician adoption of mobile technology is a major driver of m-Health.

References

Larkin, H. (2011). M-Health: Patients and doctors are jumping on the mobile app bandwagon, chaining health care as we know it. H&HN: Hospitals & Health Networks, April, 28-26.

Norris, C. C., Stockdate, R. S., & Sharma, S. (2009). A strategic approach to m-health. Health Informatics Journal, 15, 244–253.