Term: mHealth (Mobile Health)


Mobile Health or mHealth is a term that describes the use of mobile devices to improve health care. These devices include mobile phones, PDAs, monitoring devices, and any other wireless devices that are implemented to support a health practice. MHealth devices are used to collect patient data, transfer clinics' data, between researchers, and even on devices that monitor patients in a health care provider's office.


The best way to describe mHealth is by talking about its applications. mHealth can create a wireless network of health care devices in a hospital or clinic. mhealth also encompasses patients accessing data via mobile phones. The mHealth initiative hopes to allow patients to access their own records, and general health information via handheld devices. There are devices based on the mHealth principle that monitor heart rhythm and wirelessly transmit the data to a central location. This location amasses the information and can provide alerts based on findings. Visit Alivetec for examples of this technology. mHealth can be described as portability of health information.

A scenario follows:
A patients walks into a hospital and fills in his information in the waiting room on a digital tablets. The tablet then securely sends the data to a computer that puts him in a queue for service based on the affliction that he is experiencing. A nurse places a monitoring device on the patient which takes temperature and heart rate. The device automatically transmits that data to the station that the nurse is monitoring. The doctor who will see this patient is currently in the cafeteria, but receives a document on her PDA with all the pertinent information. Before the doctor even arrives in the treatment room she has the information that she will need to start making a diagnosis. After she diagnoses the patient, she transmit the data from her PDA to a clinic the patient wants to go to pickup his medicine prescription. When the patient arrives at the pharmacy his medicine is ready and available for pickup.

The scenario may seem far fetched at this time, but it is happening in small leaps. There are some hurtles to overcome before this scenario could happen. First of all, a set of protocols for the synchronization of devices will need to be formed. This protocol would determine the method in which devices communicate, how they are named, and all other pertinent information. Secondly, security is a very big obstacle. Patients' data is incredibly important and sensitive. Devices would need to be secure enough to transmit data without any possibility of interception or loss of integrity. Another obstacle is the health care providers themselves. Change is difficult, and it may take time for health care providers to trust the system. It will also take time for these providers to be trained on the system. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but these are three main barriers that would prevent this mHealth scenario from coming into existence.


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