The mobile phone is closer and closer to becoming a universal device. Banking, media, and communication are now on our mobile devices. One can envision a near future where our lives could fit into our back pocket.
Mobile health (mHealth) refers to health applications (apps) on mobile devices. In an age where healthcare costs are increasing and accessibility is decreasing, mHealth provides an avenue through which the growing needs of the population might be met. Though this emerging technology holds much potential, there are still issues that must be addressed.
Internet-based healthcare services for self-diagnosis and advice have been around for a while. Websites such as WebMD provide the tools for online self-diagnosis and direct individuals to see a nurse, doctor, or go to the emergency room if needed.
mHealth technology has the ability to empower individuals to take care of their own health and well-being. According to Shivani Goyal, a researcher at the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation in Toronto, there are two major approaches to mobile technology. One is to help people engage in preventative health by using mobile phones to track, assess, and change bad behaviours. The other is to help people manage long-term conditions requiring medication or careful monitoring.
“Mobile health is changing the model of current healthcare. It’s enabling patients to be informed about their own medical information,” Goyal told The Daily. The Centre for Global eHealth Innovation has developed a number of mHealth applications. These mobile self-management applications include “bant” for individuals with diabetes to collect and track their blood glucose levels, and“breathe” for people with asthma to engage in their own treatment plans.
Another mobile technology application is medical screening. Dr. Nitika Pant Pai, a professor in the Department of Medicine at McGill University, has developed an HIV self-screening smartphone application.
“The patients want access to quality care, they want to be seen quickly, and they want confidentiality,” explained Pai. Before developing the HIV screening app, Pai scouted the field for existing apps and found that many had not been tested or tailored to patients. This provided her main motivation to develop the technology herself.