AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog

Healthcare, Anywhere

For rapid access to information from anywhere at anytime, nothing beats a smartphone or other mobile device. The widespread use of these devices sets the stage for rapid growth in mobile health (mHealth) applications to improve patient care.  In 2011, smartphones accounted for more than half of all phone sales in the United States, and there are now over 12,000 health-related apps on the iTunes store alone. There is immense theoretical value, but how is mHealth being used by patients and physicians in the real world?

The first generation apps available now provide rapid access to information previously available from far more specific resources. Common conditions like hypertension, diabetes and headache have apps that allow patients to conveniently collect and trend data about their condition. iHeadache and Seizure Log allow patients to look for triggers to these events; Seizure Log can even embed videos of events. Neuro Toolkit provides key protocols and scales that neurologists use routinely in the hospital, frequently saving them a trip to the library or internet. Practical mHealth apps do not necessarily need to be brilliant to be helpful. The value is in the unparalleled level of accessibility that they offer.

In her speech at the annual mHealth summit in December, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius described mHealth as “opening up new lines of communications between patients and their doctors, among health care providers trying to stay on the same page and even among communities of patients.”  She mentioned iTriage, an app that helps patients document their symptoms and find a nearby emergency room.

Of course, apps that aid patients and doctors alike are a very positive force in healthcare, but must continue to be improved. iTriage, for example, would benefit by including which hospitals are certified for acute stroke and heart attack treatment by the Joint Commission. If a patient does need emergency treatment for one of these or other conditions, the chance of getting the fastest and most complete care are increased at the most capable facility.

The next generation of apps will move beyond data collection and collation.  Smartphone trends for 2012 include larger screens, faster processing and more apps, all of which bode well for more robust medical applications. With the advances, mHealth is likely to continue to revolutionize access for patients and physicians.

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