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May 13 2011   8:50AM GMT

Driving telehealth through mobile apps and social media

Posted by: Jenny Laurello
applications, mHealth, mhealth apps, mobile health, telehealth

A major consideration in the success of telehealth technologies and the utilization of medical mobile applications is the population group with which you’re working. Formulating a remote patient monitoring program can become even more challenging — or not– when that group is composed of adolescents and teens. At this year’s 16th Annual American Telemedicine Association conference, Dr. Joseph Caffazo, senior director of eHealth innovation at the University of Toronto, shed light on a new iPhone app for diabetic teens that monitors and reports on blood glucose levels remotely. It also taps into the vast opportunities that now exist through social media platforms.

bant, a collaborative effort between Apple and the University of Toronto’s Hospital for Sickkids, is being touted as the “diabetes app for the ePatient,” and is the first example in a clinical trial where a glucometer is communicating directly with an iPhone. The app works like this: patients enter their readings with a single swipe, and the results get instantly stored to a Google Health account. You are then able to share your experience with the diabetes community directly through Twitter, giving the patient experience its own portal for communication. To hear Dr. Caffazo explain the app, please visit the ATA’s press conference coverage page and zip ahead to 23:00.

With the usage of smartphones and mobile applications on the rise in both business and personal settings, Apple and the University wanted to create a unique user experience that made diabetes data monitoring an interactive, engaging daily activity – one which teen patients would no longer see as a chore, but instead an opportunity to both improve their health and connect with others just like them.

In addition to being able to tweet directly from the app’s platform, users are also invited to participate in the corresponding community forum and blogosphere, where they can share their stories and connect with other teen diabetics. There is even a rewards system of sorts baked right into the app, where users receive iTunes currency in return for their regular monitoring and reporting.

While it is impossible to force a patient to actively participate in remote monitoring activities, bant is a great example of how industry innovators are working hard to expand the continuum of care and drive patient engagement through mHealth and social media. ¬†As Dr. Caffazo noted at ATA 2011, “The next generation of remote patient monitoring systems will be mobile phone based. Why? Because we need to address the huge numbers of people with chronic conditions […] many of the current technology can only deal with hundreds and thousands, and we really need to leverage the ubiquitous of the mobile phone.”

For more ATA 2011 reaction to bant, please see here.

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