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Imagine Next - Mobile Apps get health savvy

Infographic Courtesy of Allied Health World
Infographic Courtesy of Allied Health World

Smartphones have been increasingly becoming the mobile device of first choice for users. The processing power of these devices coupled with the mountains of apps available make them almost irresistible. In just the first three months of 2013 alone, over 13 billion downloads were registered cumulatively from the Google, Apple, BlackBerry and Windows app stores. There are apps for pictures, entertainment, games and just about anything you use on your smartphone or tablet. And now, industry experts are pushing the envelope developing mobile health applications --known as mHealth apps—with increasing sophistication for specific health and wellness issues.

Doctors are incorporating the tech savvy apps into their practices to make it more efficient for patients receive treatment and consultations and take greater responsibility for their own health management. Research shows that patients hospitalised for cardiac problems have been able to successfully complete rehabilitation exercise sessions at home using their smartphone to transmit real-time data to their physicians.

A new study by Research2Guidance predicts that the mHealth app market will be worth $26b by 2017.

They agree that user-friendly mHealth apps will go a long way in helping patients manage their nutrition and fitness by providing easy ‘do it yourself’ tests and real time feedback. Innovations like these are what bmobile has envisioned for local smartphone users as the mobile service provider continues to boost mobile high-speed connectivity with its 4G network and bzones.

 

With better quality networks, new high tech apps are popping up at an unprecedented speed. Writing for his Digital Intelligence Blog, Dominic Tyer sited Positive Technology as one of the best mHealth apps in the world. Said to be first mobile app to integrate a 3D virtual reality environment with mobile biofeedback technology, the app helps users manage and cope with daily stresses. Supported by the EU, the app was developed in Italy and exploits progress made in the field of wearable low-cost biosensors to allow an effective psychological intervention in stressful situations. The innovative app made it on the “Top Mobile Health Apps” list at this year’s instalment of the World Summit Awards held in Abu Dhabi.

Then there’s an app called uChek which performs a urinalysis. The uChek test kit and app made available in Apple’s iTunes store is one of the latest tech-driven health services to hit the mobile marketplace. Creator Myshkin Ingawale says the app provides cheap and accurate urinalysis tests by comparing a colour coded test strip against an image taken with the mobile device and giving the results within seconds. It also breaks down the levels of glucose, proteins, nitrites, etc, present in the urine. The app is now being tested in a Mumbai hospital and is especially helpful for diabetics and people battling kidney, bladder and liver problems.

Ezderm.com says its app, the EZ Derm's iPad-based electronic health record system, is one of the most innovative apps specifically designed for dermatology. The app incorporates Nuance Communications' cloud-based medical speech recognition technology andprovides physicians with anatomically accurate 3-D body maps on which they can make notes using touch technology. Ezderm.com says the app has integrated clinical decision-support that includes diagnosis information and suggested treatments. Doctors will also find helpful the app's telephony, videoconferencing, and texting capabilities.

Other sophisticated apps can check one’s blood pressure, track heart rate, determine conditions such as sleep apnea, detect seizures, and automatically score or interpret cognitive testing results.

Universities are also embracing the opportunity to improve their curricula through the mHealth technology revolution. Canada’s Mohawk College has earned a reputation for its Medic Programme which specilaises in mHealth. Since the program was launched seven years ago, the college, which recently hosted its Apps for Health Conference, has churned out several internationally-used open source platforms -- one of which is currently being used in Rwanda. The Medic Program allows students to collaborate and assist businesses to develop and commercialise health innovations.

But even with the explosion of mobile health apps there are some challenges. As the apps help inform more profound decisions about personal health, regulatory and private watchdog groups have put mHealth apps under the microscope to ensure they comply with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines.

Notwithstanding this most are optimistic about the future of mHealth and its role in promoting healthcare across borders. Patients are given an alternative to the increasing cost of traditional health care and which can be accessed at their fingertips anytime, anywhere.

Image A - Image courtesy of renjith Krishnan-FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image B - Courtesy of Allied Health World – view full infographic at http://www.alliedhealthworld.com/visuals/smartphone-healthcare.html