A few years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) touted mHealth – healthcare supported by digital mobile devices – as a new technology to aid in the delivery of telehealth, enhance the efficiency of call centers in hospitals, and help healthcare professionals respond to natural disasters. Those forecasts were accurate, but today mHealth is changing healthcare in so many other ways. Not only is mHealth supporting doctors, but it is also empowering patients with more control over their own care.
In 2018, MIT developed a mobile device capable of measuring the white blood cell count of cancer patients after chemotherapy sessions. The method is completely noninvasive, with no blood sample required. Instead it relies on a camera, a microscope, and a special light shined at the base of the fingernail. The technology allows a digital image to be taken that is then relayed to the doctor. If the white cell count is too low, preventative intervention can be done. Harvard researchers are also exploring the use of mobile apps to deliver mental health treatment, especially to rural areas with less access to psychiatrists. Meanwhile, the FDA has approved an innovative mHealth device that has an EKG sensor, and a company has developed an iPad app to monitor blood loss during surgery.
Two other studies published by Harvard explain how mHealth promises to help patients self-manage diabetes. Researchers believe that this may provide low-income patients with better levels of consistent care and enhanced monitoring of their glucose levels. Apple has also partnered with the VA to give veterans a secure but easily-accessed digital app. It acts as a portal to check medical records, manage prescriptions, and keep track of lab results and immunizations. Hospitals are also communicating via iPads to patients and their families, regarding the progress of their treatment. Then they can educate patients and caregivers regarding their discharge instructions and home care guidelines.
Similar examples include the mHealth app used by Presbyterian Hospital’s for the past three years. Patients at the New York facility can receive updates and reminders regarding scheduled surgeries, for instance, and their loved ones can be kept informed during and immediately following the procedures. That kind of convenience reassures families who appreciate the real-time updates. But it also relieves hospital staff of the distracting task of tracking down individuals within the hospital to deliver news of how the patient is doing. Doctors and nurses can communicate instantly to family members via the mHealth app. That saves valuable time, and it means that providers stay more focused on their patients and on delivering quality care with the undivided attention patients deserve.
As mHealth technology continues to evolve, with new and different applications, it is expected to usher in many changes within the healthcare industry. One of the biggest changes is in terms of its market penetration. Experts anticipate that demand for mHealth technology will create a more than $10 billion global market over the next five years.