mHealth, for those not in the know, is the practice of medicine and public health supported by the use of mobile technology. It allows for patients to record their symptoms through the use of wearable devices that can automatically upload this to systems where data can be analysed and shared with doctors and healthcare providers.
The practice is growing in popularity around the world and we are seeing that it is spreading quicker in developing markets than it is in the more mature ones. However, whether it is in Columbia or Colorado, mHealth is changing the way that people view their health and how they are interacting with their healthcare professionals.
A transition from one way of working to another is always going to be complex and many healthcare professionals are sceptical of mHealth’s effect. This is not to say that they are not aware of the potential and supportive of it, but they see the difficulties that can arise from self diagnosis. We have seen this from the use of websites such as WebMD, where patients showing mild symptoms of one issue may jump to conclusions and believe the internet over their trained doctor.
Despite this, there is considerable support for the idea. It would allow monitoring of at-risk patients around the clock, with healthcare professionals alerted to abnormal fluctuations and having the ability to react before the patient is even aware of the change. Equally, it can be automated so that if urgent medical assistance is needed an ambulance can be sent to the patient’s location without the need to call an emergency number.
The uses for mHealth go beyond how an individual can use it too.
With the potential for massive data uploads, it offers health researchers a potential goldmine of useable information. If a system can be created where the data can be effectively anonymised, then mHealth could truly cause a healthcare revolution, not just at clinical levels, but at a theoretical level too. It could potentially help identify, cure or prevent certain diseases by finding early warning signs.
The future of mHealth is uncertain in terms of breadth, but we can expect to see significant gains from it’s use, even if it is limited in the short term.