Rapid Access International, Inc.
Mobile Health or “mHealth” is an emerging new industry in the United States with many new applications based on technologies that can deliver pictures, documents, and real time video to doctors in emergency and other situations – all via smartphones and mobile devices. The definition of mHealth does not mean bringing doctors or health workers to communities in cars or vans, it means using telemedicine in a unique way based on the use of portable mobile devices (such as the Apple I-Pad or the Kindle E-reader) or even a cellphone with smart phone applications. These devices are able to record pictures or video of a patient and send this data along with questionnaire information on subjects such as a patient’s pain levels or the amount of bleeding, etc. to the doctor in real time for review and action.
Telemedicine is in itself nothing new and doctors have used teleconferencing and videoconferencing for several years with success. MHealth is something different from that. It uses mobile devices and the newest technology and gadgets to support real medical applications such as directing a patient how to stop the bleeding of a wound after a critical accident until medical help can arrive.
In May of this year, the George Washington University Hospital in Washington, DC conducted a six-month study to look at how emergency doctors and their assistants could diagnose wounds from pictures taken by patients with the images sent via cellphones for diagnosis and treatment. The study is considered the largest study of its kind to look into the issue of acute wound care for emergency room applications. In the study, patients used their own cameras or cellphones to take photographs of cuts or wounds and transmitted this data along with a brief questionnaire on their condition to doctors in the clinic. The study conducted research on cuts, skin infections, rashes, and other kinds of wounds to the skin. The study is not yet completed and will be conducted through October of 2010. So far, the results have been positive and doctors have been able to correctly diagnose treatment via cellphone images in about 90% of the cases.
Makers of new multimedia pad-type readers such as the Apple I-Pad or the Kindle E-reader are now experimenting with the use of these devices in viewing and diagnosing medical images and documentation on patients. The devices have huge advantages for medical applications such as being lightweight, easy to carry, easy to read, and allow the doctor access to a wide array of information on a patient including their medical records or “real-time” data such as the patient’s heart rate, blood pressure levels, etc. through the use of monitors that port data to the doctors mHealth device.
There are a number of advantages for using mobile devices to communicate health information between a patient and a doctor. The main advantages are as follows:
The United Nations and Vodafone have teamed up in developing countries to offer mHealth services among poor countries and rural populations. Some of the services currently being offered under this program include:
Source: The Vodafone Foundation (http://www.vodafone.com)
According to a spokesperson at Telenor, mHealth is a way of increasing efficiency and productivity in the healthcare industry while improving the overall quality of care. New services such as connecting pill boxes and medicines for the elderly to monitors that can alert the doctor a patient has not taken their medication, are now becoming more common through the use of mobile technologies. The scheduling of nurses and doctors can also be managed more efficiently.
The main challenge facing the healthcare industry today is the huge cost of providing care – especially to older citizens who are on limited incomes or have limited resources to pay for specialized healthcare services. There are increasing costs for staffing and manpower and the growth of diseases based on lifestyle such as obesity (being overweight) or lack of exercise which contribute to a rise in diabetes, heart disease, and other diseases (particularly among the elderly).
A main drawback at the moment is that E-readers do not have any specific medical applications and have only been used in the medical community in test environments. I-Pads are also being tested in mHealth applications and are showing a lot of promise. This is an emerging trend in the US and globally and it is likely we will see mHealth devices and applications begin to dominate the medical market in the near future.
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