Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Always on Call: Recent Advancements in Mobile Health Technology

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The advent of mobile technology has had a profound effect on our daily lives, changing not only the ways we communicate, but also the ways we learn, work, gather information, find entertainment, and even forge our relationships. 

Despite the growing digitization of daily modern life, however, the healthcare industry has been relatively slow to jump on the technology bandwagon. That is, until now. In recent years, a torrent of powerful new mobile health technologies has flooded the market. 

And like so much of tech today, they’re changing lives for the better, from increasing access to quality healthcare for previously underserved populations to increasing and enhancing the interaction between patients and their healthcare providers. Read on to learn more about the most exciting advancements in mobile health tech, and how you and your family can benefit.

What is mHealth and Why Should You Care?

Basically, mHealth simply refers to the range of new mobile healthcare technologies that have been introduced in recent years. With nearly 5 billion people estimated to use cellphones today, mHealth is quite literally putting healthcare in the palms of people’s hands.

And if you’re one of the millions of people worldwide who don’t have easy access to quality healthcare, the advent of these technologies can literally mean the difference between life and death. 

mHealth technologies are not only being used today to reach patients in the most rural parts of the United States but also to extend care in some of the world’s most inaccessible regions, from Africa to South America and pretty much everywhere in between!

Continuous Care—Right From Home

One of the best things about new mHealth technologies is that you no longer have to schlep to a doctor’s office, lab, or clinic to be evaluated. With these devices, your care provider can securely monitor your vitals from your home, your office, or virtually anywhere you may be.

There are now lightweight, highly accurate, and very inconspicuous medical sensors to provide pretty much continuous monitoring of everything from your blood pressure and heartbeat to your brain waves. There’s even a new device you can slip onto your fingernail to monitor your grip strength, often one of the first signs of health trouble ahead. And some smartwatches are sophisticated enough to monitor your pulse oximetry, the level of oxygen saturation in your red blood cells.

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Improving Patient/Provider Relationships

Whether you live in a remote area where access to routine healthcare seems an impossible dream or age or illness prevents you from getting to medical appointments as often as you should, the advent of mHealth technologies may change your life. In fact, they might even save it. 

Thanks to the emergence of telehealth, the role of the healthcare provider is changing. Now you can have consistent access to your healthcare team, whenever and wherever you may be. That’s going to help you and your care provider build the kind of strong, open, and engaged relationship that you need to get the healthcare you deserve. 

Thanks to mobile apps, you and your physician or nurse practitioner can routinely talk face-to-face, allowing you to share your questions and concerns and discuss your progress. And your caregiver can actually see you, potentially detecting subtle symptoms before they can escalate—plus, you don’t even have to worry about transportation!

Diabetes Meets Mobile

If you or someone you love suffers from diabetes, then you know it’s an ongoing battle to stay healthy. Managing diabetes requires continuous monitoring of glucose and insulin levels, being vigilant for signs of protein or ketones in the urine, and overall ensuring that blood sugar levels are staying safe and stable.

Keeping well when you have diabetes can feel like a 24/7 job, but thanks to mHealth, it no longer has to be. Various wearable devices can now continuously monitor glucose levels. This kind of tech can enable you to go through your daily life without those painful, repetitive finger sticks or having to wait until the signs of high or low glucose levels

Being able to track your blood sugar levels through the day and night will also help you identify your particular patterns, those foods, activities, and times of day that are most likely to trigger glucose spikes. You can even use apps to record your food intake and your exercise patterns in order to maintain healthy habits. Armed with this information, you and your healthcare provider can determine the treatment strategy that works best for you. 

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For instance, you and your healthcare team might realize you’re a candidate for oral medications, like Jardiance, which could possibly free you from your reliance on injectable insulin!

Mental Health and Mobile Tech

Despite the growing recognition of the importance of mental healthcare and today’s increasing efforts in suicide prevention, mental illness still too easily takes a backseat to physical healthcare in the minds of many patients and caregivers alike.

Thankfully, mHealth is changing that fact as well. In fact, one of the technology’s greatest strengths, perhaps, is its ability to provide access to high-quality mental healthcare when people need it most. 

Today, there are a host of free or low-cost mental and behavioral health apps you can download to your cell phone to help you manage anxiety, cope with addiction, or even speak to a certified mental healthcare provider.

And that’s not all! You don’t even necessarily have to seek out mental health technologies to reap the psychological rewards of the new tech. Studies have shown, for example, that gaming can be a wonderful weapon in the battle against depression! Gamers not only build social connections through their gameplay, but they also tend to have higher self-esteem, more confidence, and a greater sense of excitement about their day-to-day lives than people who don’t game—and all that can be a powerful antidote to depression!

The Takeaway

We are truly entering a brave new world of healthcare. Thanks to the advent of mHealth, more people than ever have access to consistent, high-quality healthcare, right in the palm of their hands. These new technologies are not only changing the provider/patient relationship for the better, but they’re also optimizing diagnosis and treatment, vastly improving physical and mental health. And that makes for a longer, healthier, and happier life!

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