Mobile healthcare is changing the way people with chronic diseases are accessing and analyzing information and communicating with health professionals. Mobile technology can be used to remind health consumers to take their medication at appropriate times. It can help health consumers record their health indicators and send them to physicians and specialists electronically. Rather than waiting for patients to realize that they have any irregularities and visit their doctor, their health conditions are monitored in real time, and physicians can be alerted to any problems.
The benefits of mobile healthcare in managing Diabetes
Real time monitoring is crucial for many who have to manage chronic diseases, such as diabetes. In the past, a patient with diabetes had to visit the doctor (physically), take a test, and wait for the results. Today, patients are able to record their glucose levels and send them to the appropriate specialist. Imagine the saving (time + money) between the two, not to mention the convenience to the patient. People with diabetes can use a device such as the GlucoPhone, which besides being a cell phone, is a glucose measurer. It measures and records blood sugar levels and sends the results to the patient and to specialists. It reminds patients when to take a glucose test and also manages the patient’s meal plan.
This recent study that shows physicians and patients using health apps to coordinate diabetes care, mentions this pilot study, published in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology. During the study in July 2014, patients with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes mellitus had access to an iPhone or iPad, and participated in a nonrandomized clinical trial using SightBook™, a free mobile app that enabled self-measurement of visual function and created a password-protected web account for each patient. Sixty patients enrolled in the clinical trial over a 6 month period. The study determined that a mobile health app c0uld improve coordination of care between the patient, the diabetologist, and the ophthalmologist. Physicians participated by creating SightBook accounts so they could share data. As a result, patients and all participating members of their care team could see posted notes and results. The study results revealed improved communication with consumers and their health care professionals. However there was a high level of self-monitoring required by participants. Such requirements may be difficult to replicate outside the structures of a research study.
What’s happening in the industry?
With the dramatic increase of mobile technology in healthcare, start ups and developers are finding ways to change health monitoring and health care delivery. Here are some other examples:
Qompium is a new Belgian start-up that aims to “Put a Doctor in your pocket” by providing cost efficient solutions that use the power of mobile devices and apps. Their first app, Cardimoni, monitors heart rates and identifies irregularities that may indicate a larger problem. The app provides features for users as well as their care providers, ensuring that ‘too much data’ is able to be interpreted accurately and appropriately.
The CardoSecur Active app from Germany is an effective tool for the health-conscious individual. You can enter various parameters such as your (perceived) symptoms, weight, blood pressure, stress, and activities as well as your medical history. The app combined with an optional set of sensors can be used to provide data to assist you and your Doctor to manage your heart health.
With the release of the Apple HealthKit and Google Fit SDK, there is an ever increasing level of interest in how mobile devices can assist us in monitoring our health. However, what are the potential negatives or mis-interpretations of all this data we are gathering?
A survey of 144 executives and managers in the healthcare industry in 23 countries published by the Economist
Intelligence Unit, showed that 51% of healthcare executives find that the biggest concern to mobile health adoption is data privacy.
This in turn has an impact on mobile health tech developers. There are many startups and developers enthusiastic to build health focused apps and services, who often give second thought to data privacy and sovereignty, instead focusing on the next ‘cool feature’. However, data privacy is the single most important issue to consumers. There is no point us creating feature-full apps if no-one will use them.
Joy Pritts, former Chief Privacy Officer of the ONC, finds that mobile apps have the potential to be beneficial for people’s healthcare. She cautions that consumers should be aware and careful of what they download, and need to read privacy policies and user agreements.
Any health app that someone has on their device includes personal information about the individual, perhaps sensitive information. Many laws and regulations are in place to protect such data. App developers need to be aware of such laws and regulations to avoid any kind of penalty. These laws may vary from country to country and application to application, possibly at a state level in some countries. Liability and responsibility for recommendations made by health care apps are a legal grey area and developers need to be careful about the wording they use in their apps, unless they are certain about outcomes or have confident medical backing.
What’s in store for the future?
As developers we have the potential to create a lot of beneficial health care related apps and services. What are your main concerns with getting involved in the sector? Or do you have any experience and advice for other developers considering getting involved in it? Please let me know your thoughts and keep an eye out for future posts from me on this topic.