mHealth: Mobile Health Applications


Smartphones, tablets, and other media-ready mobile devices have transcended the way people communicate today. These new devices have become a handy, mobile gateway for to collect and store any form of information needed today. Anything from games to turn-by-turn GPS can be found in your standard device. Application development for mobile devices have led to an increase in productivity and data capture throughout the users' daily routine. By simplifying and integrating tools into a user's mobile device, developers use mobile technology to its fullest potential. They do so with the hopes of improving users' health and quality of life, while maintaining that the apps are easy to implement. mHealth refers to the practice of medicine and public health through the support of mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablet PCs, and laptops.
As an extension of the field of mHealth, Mobile Health encompasses the use of mobile communication and multimedia technologies, as they are integrated within mobile and wireless healthcare delivery systems. mHealth is essentially its own field or category. It correlates directly with eHealth and its systems, which are used to store, manage, and assess the potential data that is gathered from mobile health devices. In essence, eHealth can be viewed as a technology that supports the functions and delivery of healthcare, while mHealth is largely dependent on providing mobile access to healthcare [1] .

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History

The idea of using mobile devices for medical purposes began in hospitals and clinics. Medical personnel would use applications to look up references for conditions and solutions on the fly. One particular study states that 94 percent of physicians use smartphones in some work oriented form[2] . The user base has extended beyond the scope of physicians. Now, the general population could use any connected mobile device to look up symptoms, locate a medical facility, and keep track of their medical records through a slew of diverse applications. While these apps cannot replace the professionals who handle these situations on a day to day basis, they have become a useful tool in improving and monitoring one’s health.

Technologies

The combination of basic SMS functions and real-time voice communication serve as the framework and as the most common use of mobile phone technology. As technology gradually advances and new innovative methods are implemented, mobile devices and applications that were developed will evolve in ways that will enhance the potential for further healthcare delivery. With continually advancing mobile communications technology, consumers have access to a slew of information at their fingertips. This enables communication on the go at any time. Furthermore, the spread of smartphone technology opens up various opportunities in the mHealth field for projects such as tech-based diagnosis support, remote diagnostics and telemedecine, GPS navigation, access to web-based records, web browsing, and decentralized HMIS.

Keep in mind that mobile health goes beyond mobile phones. With access to wireless-enabled laptops, tablets and specialized health related software applications, users' can stay informed and ahead of the curve.Other mHealth related technologies include:

  • Patient Monitoring Devices
  • Mobile Telemedecine Devices
  • Laptops and Microcomputers
  • Data Mining Software
  • Mobile Device Operating Systems Technology

Mobile Device Operating Systems

There are many operating systems available for mobile devices that support the use of mHealth applications. The main operating systems include Apple's iOS, Google's Android, Microsoft's Windows 8 and RIM's Blackberry OS.These operating systems can also range from open source/open public license, to closed source/proprietary, depending on the company. Other Mobile Operating Systems include:

  • Symbian OS from the Symbian Foundation
  • webOS from HP
  • BlackBerry Tablet OS from QNX Software System/RIM
  • MeeGo from The Linux Foundation
  • bada from Samsung Electronics
  • Naemo from Nokia

Mobile Health Applications

There are many mobile health apps available for download, both free and paid. These are some of the most popular:

Epocrates
Epocrates is a free app that stems from an online reference guide. It allows you to get quick access to reliable drug, disease, and diagnostic information at the point of care. It offers comprehensive information about pharmaceuticals. It's the number one mobile drug reference among U.S. Physicians[3] . The free version of the app offers clinical information for general users that includes the correct dosing of drugs, FDA warning, and pricing. They even provide pictures to visually identify what the drug looks like. One of the strongest features is that the app can let doctors and patients alike know what is a harmful combination of drugs in order to avoid unwanted side effects. A premium version of the app is also available that provides a comprehensive chart of how patients should be taking doses, adds access to evidence-based treatment info for hundreds of diseases, and provides over 20,000 ICD-9 and CPT codes. Epocrates is available on almost every major mobile platform.
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WebMD
WebMD Health Corp is the leading provider of health information services. It serves consumers, physicians, healthcare professionals, employers, and insurance companies through public and private online portals as well as mobile platforms. This application helps consumers with decision-making and health improvement by providing instant access to a mobile-optimized health information and decision-support tools. It includes a Symptom Checker, Drugs & Treatments, First Aid Information and Local Health Listings. The app also provides a feature that gives you access to first aid information without having to be connected to the internet.

Some of the additional features are Maps, Email and Content Updates. The Maps allows the user to view various health listings and locations in a map view. The user can email themselves or friends medical information. The last feature allows the app to be updated once it connects to the internet. In addition to those features, the WebMD app allows for personalization. It allows users to create custom lists of drugs, conditions, and articles. This is to save custom lists securely and to review saved information anytime from anywhere.


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iTriage
Created by two ER docs, iTriage is a free mobile and web application that helps people identify any health related problems. It tells the user how or where to seek treatment. The app also allows people to use a body avatar to identify their symptoms and uses location-based technology to find the closest clinic relative to their location. It also lets users save, easily access, and share the healthcare information most important to them. The application features a proprietary symptom to provider pathway used to search symptoms. This will allow the user to learn about potential causes, and then be directed to the most appropriate treatment facility or doctor. It also features maps for turn-by-turn directions to all medical facilities, thousands of medical symptoms, diseases, procedures, and medications. It also links the user to wait times for select hospital emergency rooms and urgent care facilities, and even a pre-registration feature for select hospital emergency rooms. With all of its features, users can use iTriage as a symptom checker, to locate a doctor, or as a medical reference tool.

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Glucose Buddy
Glucose Buddy is another free app that features a data storage utility for people with diabetes. Users can manually enter glucose numbers, carbohydrate consumption, insulin dosages, and activities directly to the app. Users can then set up a free glucosebuddy.com online account which they can use to view all of their data. With over 7 million logs uploaded to linked online accounts, this app features synchronization of logs to glucosebuddy.com, desktop access, printing, A1C estimator, and push notification reminders. It also features integration with CalorieTrack for faster food and exercise logging with over 100 thousand food items and over 200 exercise activities to choose from. The Glucose Buddy app provides many benefits for those with diabetes to manage and track information on their condition.
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HealthMap
HealthMap is a freely accessible electronic information system for monitoring, organizing, and visualizing reports of global disease outbreaks according to geographical location, time, and infectious disease agent. HealthMap basically gathers data from disparate sources and displays an integrated and comprehensive view of the current local and global state of infectious diseases and their effort on human and animal health. It also displays news articles about outbreaks. All of these features are available for free through the downloadable mobile app or through their website. Outbreak data is collected from sources that range from news to personal accounts and validated official alerts. Data is aggregated by disease and displayed by location for user access. It's latest version provides a wildlife reporting tool, which allows users to choose between reporting human and animal disease. It's a useful app for those who are health conscious and want to avoid being exposed to infection.
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LIFENET Consult
LIFENET Consult is an app that has the ability to provide physicians with patient data to perform cardiology consultations remotely, make diagnosis and treatment decisions, and respond to consultation requests from their iPhone. When patient data is sent to the hospital, nurses or doctors are able to send that data to the app. The app users will then be alerted to a new request on their phone, where they can review the data and respond back to the hospital from their iPhone. This new technology allows doctors to save precious time that could be the difference between life and death of a patient.

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ZocDocZocDoc is a quick and easy to use app that takes a user's information and locates local medical providers. The app also helps the user create appointments and keep track of medical records.

<a href='http://zocdoc.com' target='_blank'>ZocDoc</a>: (free, zocdoc.com) ZocDoc's pitch is simple: letting users book doctor appointments quickly. Just enter your zip code and insurance information, click through available doctors and book. (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android)
<a href='http://zocdoc.com' target='_blank'>ZocDoc</a>: (free, zocdoc.com) ZocDoc's pitch is simple: letting users book doctor appointments quickly. Just enter your zip code and insurance information, click through available doctors and book. (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android)
HealthTapHealthTap is a mobile app that gives users access to a forums. In the forums, users can ask medical related questions which can only be answered by Medical Professionals. The app requires proof for Doctors who answer these questions. This can be used as another outlet for patients to seek either second opinions or more information.
<a href='http://healthtap.com' target='_blank'>HealthTap</a>: (free, healthtap.com) HealthTap is a mobile health care Q&amp;A station. Users can write and submit their own questions and then get an answer from a real-life doctor -- who is required to show proof of a valid medical license to register. (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPhone, Android)
<a href='http://healthtap.com' target='_blank'>HealthTap</a>: (free, healthtap.com) HealthTap is a mobile health care Q&amp;A station. Users can write and submit their own questions and then get an answer from a real-life doctor -- who is required to show proof of a valid medical license to register. (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPhone, Android)



These are just some of the many health apps available for a multitude of platforms and devices. There are countless other applications that promote overall health and wellness. Some include applications such as heart rate monitors, diet guides, glucose meters, and medical journals.

Resources


http://www.mhealthinfo.org/
http://mobilehealth.org/
http://www.mobilehealth.net/Index/
http://www.fsvcc.com/health/index.php?gclid=CJ7pstj7pKwCFYHu7QodKgLzDA
http://healthmap.org/about/
http://appshopper.com/medical/lifenet-consult
http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/01/health/10-great-mobile-apps/


References


  1. ^ The mHealth Summit: Local & Global Converge (http://www.caroltorgan.com/mhealth-summit/)
  2. ^ Smartphone Apps Make Healthcare Splash (http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/smartphone-apps-make-healthcare-splash)
  3. ^ http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/epocrates/id281935788?mt=8