With the rapid spread of wireless technology and the internet across the globe, mobile healthcare is gaining more and more interest from a consumer perspective. In the developed world, IT specialists, medical device makers and smart phone-carrying physicians and patients area all being introduced to the advantage and convenience of m-Health (mobile health care).
Mobile technology can be challenging for the non-technical savvy over 50’s demographic but has huge benefits for the rest of the Canadian population. Upcoming generations grew up with mobile technology and will be expecting to take their health care on the road with their tablets and smartphones.
mHealth (also written as m-health or mobile health) is a term used for the practice of medicine and public health, supported by mobile devices. The term is most commonly used in reference to using mobile communication devices, such as mobile phones, tablet computers and PDAs, for health services and information, but also to affect emotional states.
The mHealth field has emerged as a sub-segment of eHealth, the use of information and communication technology (ICT), such as computers, mobile phones, communications satellite, patient monitors, etc., for health services and information.
mHealth applications include the use of mobile devices in collecting community and clinical health data, delivery of healthcare information to practitioners, researchers, and patients, real-time monitoring of patient vital signs, and direct provision of care (via mobile telemedicine).
While mHealth certainly has application for industrialized nations, the field has emerged in recent years as largely an application for developing countries, stemming from the rapid rise of mobile phone penetration in low-income nations. The field, then, largely emerges as a means of providing greater access to larger segments of a population in developing countries, as well as improving the capacity of health systems in such countries to provide quality healthcare.
ABI Research estimates that there will be 15 million medical devices by 2012 – including innovations from smart pill bottle caps, through to electronic medical record (EMR) sharing in real time. The Wi-Fi enabled healthcare product market will be worth an estimated $US4.9 billion in 2014.
A challenge over the next few years are regulatory and data security issues regarding healthcare information. It remains to be seen if the health care industry in Canada will standardize or fragment.
Without standardization, the advances in medical devices remain confusing to navigate and interoperability will be compromised.
With the amalgamation of technology from device giants such as Medtronic, cloud service companies such as Telus and brands such as Apple, the future of mobile healthcare looks very good.
A key question is whether the regulatory bodies such as Health Canada and the FDA will create barriers or approve healthcare apps and advanced mobile solutions and technologies.
mHealth will have a direct impact on the practice of health care. Within the mHealth space, projects operate with a variety of objectives, including increased access to healthcare and health-related information (particularly for hard-to-reach populations); improved ability to diagnose and track diseases; timelier, more actionable public health information; and expanded access to ongoing medical education and training for health workers.