Can Mobile Technology Bring Us a Healthier Planet?

There are few things that better communications can’t improve. Taking technological advancements to heart with the aim of improving quality of life and even saving the lives of patients everywhere, the health care industry has increasingly been adopting techniques which rely on mobile devices like smart phones in order to provide better care.

Properly utilized, mobile devices provide a very useful and versatile tool for health care professionals to work with, enabling them to simultaneously save time and provide better care to more patients. We have yet to see the full scope of possibilities for mobile device assisting with health care, but already there are a wealth of promising features available to everyday users, as well as specialized uses for patients suffering conditions both chronic or acute.

The Real World Impacts

In a 2012 report from the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings entitled “How Mobile Devices are Transforming Healthcare” author Darrel West expounds on how “[m]obile technology is helping with chronic disease management, empowering the elderly and expectant mothers, reminding people to take medication at the proper time, extending service to underserved areas, and improving health outcomes and medical system efficiency.”

As West provides throughout the report, this was already quite true in 2012. Mobile devices have proven highly effective at putting patients in touch with medical professionals remotely via call centers which can be accessed much easier than physical appointments. This has the potential to provide anyone with a mobile phone with ready medical consultation, helping to inform, educate, troubleshoot basic medical problems, and helping patients to make more informed and health conscious decisions.

The practice of telemedicine can even be used to diagnose common ailments like the cold and some services allow doctors to prescribe basic medications without ever seeing the patient. Such systems can provide better health care outcomes as well as huge savings for patient and health care professionals. Aside from immediate treatment, mobile devices also prove excellent for follow up, with SMS reminders for appointment times, telephone check-ups, apps to provide medication reminders or raise health awareness, and other innovations available on practically every mobile device.

Extending Access

While it is clear from the above that mobile health care has the potential to alleviate some strain from the often over-worked medical system, these technologies also provide the possibility of extending health care to those who otherwise would not have it at all. Mobile devices can prove massively helpful in rural areas for both doctors and patients. Doctors located in rural areas can use the devices to access health records, medical databases, or consult with their peers or specialists in distant locations. Patients meanwhile stand to benefit from real time communications with health specialists who may be physically inaccessible, apps which help to monitor their health as well as put them in touch with specialists if they require.

Using apps like these, doctors in Malawi managed to save massive amounts of time and effort and treat more patients than ever possible before. Within six months of launching a program which allowed health workers to send text messages to clinics after assessing a patient and receive quick diagnosis from doctors, the number of tuberculosis cases being treated doubled. More people were being treated, yet the clinics had eliminated over 1,200 hours of travel time, freeing up health care workers to allow for the first time a functional emergency service responders to operate in the area.

Mobile Devices For Everyday Health

It is indisputable that mobile devices can help patients with chronic conditions, as well as extend the capabilities of over worked health care professionals, and even help those in rural areas receive better care than otherwise possible. Yet mobile devices also hold possibilities for the otherwise fit and healthy individual.

Health conscious apps can be used to track just about everything related to your health and fitness: watch every calorie you eat, calculate how much energy you burned off at the gym, keep close tabs on your sleep schedule, or track your jogging route or find the healthiest place to eat with some help from your GPS.

The Tip of the Iceberg

It is likely we have only just begun to see the many ways mobile technology will help health care goals. With new ways to monitor patients and communicate with health care professionals becoming available almost everyday, it is an exciting time to watch the developments of mobile technology and health care join forces to bring us a healthier planet.

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