When one mentions healthcare and mobile in the same sentence, they may seem the strangest of bedfellows, more so since traditional healthcare services have been obtained and delivered via physical trips to a medical facility.
M-health can broadly be defined as the use of mobile technology to deliver healthcare services. There exists medical platforms that have allowed for patient data to be accessed remotely via online channels and the provision of a mobile interface provides that last mile that empowers practitioners and patients access much needed information while physically distant from the medical facilities.
There are a number of areas that are currently being explored, the first being regular day to day monitoring and streamlining. This sees doctors use mobile more heavily to book appointments, post patient reminders on drug usage and doses, as well as keep a tab on their schedules while on the go. While this may sound basic, it is a starting point that will see increased adoption of mobile centric services. Platforms such as Medic Mobile have a growing community of users who are contributing to the open source project that has a patients records system and information collection and dissemination modules. As Medic Mobile put it “ these tools support community health worker coordination and management, community mobilization for vaccination and satellite clinics, logistics and supply chain management, referrals, routine data collection, and mapping of health services.”
Telemedicine is also touted as a game changer, more so in areas where access to specialized personnel is difficult. Mobile phones are increasingly having digital cameras as a default and mobile data networks are increasing in capacity. Not just on mobile though, as the cost of connectivity drops and fibre networks get deployed throughout the country, I believe we will see more remotely done medical procedures, assessments, virtual meet ups and collaborations.
There is a lot of activity on the medical devices front, with a lot of innovation happening to try create portable medical devices. Organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation are spearheading this by way of grants to create devices that can be used to diagnose illnesses or carry out comprehensive tests on samples out in the field.
On a personal level, m-health is taking the form of mobile applications and interactive mobile sites that empower one to reach personal health goals by keep track of a diet plan or fitness regimen. Specialist directories are also available, and these allow one to quickly and easily locate licensed practitioners across a variety of practices, removing the stresses and strains of clinic hopping.
While a lot remains to be done along the lines of secure messaging, standard electronic medical records, crafting of both consumer and practitioner based m-health experiences, the future looks bright for m-health, and it is one of those utilities that will gain mass adoption if rolled out right.