BACKGROUND IMAGE: iSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES
Most consumers are aware of the value mobile health applications and wearable devices can have on an individual's health, but can mHealth apps move beyond collecting basic fitness information and become integrated with more traditional patient treatment methods?
Vendors such as Google, Apple, Samsung and countless others offer a wide range of wearable and mobile healthcare devices, as well as software platforms that can facilitate the collection and sharing of data. Although the technology is ready to be put into action, a few challenges are impeding the entrance of patient-generated mHealth data into the healthcare mainstream.
Recently released new wearable devices from Apple and Samsung have further crowded the market of devices that allow individuals to track some aspect of their health data. Many technology enthusiasts rave about the capabilities of some of these devices and are excited by their potential to enhance patients' involvement in their own healthcare. Whether patients are looking for medication reminders, or real-time monitoring of their vital signs, the tools to make a difference in patient care are all there.
Don't discount patient engagement
But technology alone is not enough to help improve patient care. To help care for patients with chronic conditions, vendors must go beyond perfecting the data collection process and design ways to improve patient adherence and engagement. Patients need to be engaged with a new technology if they are expected to adopt it as part of their care routine and sustain an improvement in their conditions. The technology or device should be tailored to the demographic and health status of the individual who is using it.
When considering mHealth devices available to patients today, it is important for medical professionals to single out the devices that adhere to and supplement their original treatment plan. For diabetic patients, this might mean using technology that monitors blood glucose levels and offers friendly reminders to support healthy eating habits. When using tools like these, patients and physicians must keep an open line of communication and discuss how well the device is fitting into the treatment plan.
What's next for mHealth data?
Mobile devices and wearables are creating new opportunities for healthcare providers by giving them more frequent access to mHealth data, data that was previously only collected during an office visit. These devices can add value to the patient-physician relationship because they arm patients with health information that they can discuss with their physician.
The tantalizing potential of patient mHealth data and devices will remain unrealized if a few hurdles aren't cleared. First, patients and providers must sort through the immense quantity of mHealth products and pick one that meets the patient's needs and can be supported by the physician.
About the author
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.
Healthcare moves toward wearable devices, data analytics
Quantified self movement starts with mobile technology
Access to mHealth data supported by faster Wi-Fi