Today mobile phone is the most popular communication device in the world with over 4 billion users. Even at some remote areas in Africa, Asia and South America there are many mobile phone users. Mobile phone offers every country a new opportunity to improve its healthcare services. Mobile-health or mHealth is the utilization of mobile communication technologies to deliver healthcare services. For example, there are mobile applications that remind patients to take their medicine at the appropriate time; mobile applications that conduct examination, diagnosis and even treatment to patients who do not have access to a medical doctor. Telemedicine apps allow doctor to talk to patients and conduct examination remotely. Remote health monitoring apps can track and report patients' conditions to medical doctors.
mHealth services are already popular in many countries. They range from basic services to more complete doctor services. Currently India and some African countries have the most numbers of mobile health applications. For example, Ghana offers mobile apps authentication service to verify prescribed medications for malaria treatments. It reaches 50 percent of patients in remote villages with significant economic and social impact. The “Pill Phone app”, a medication reminder in India tells a patient when to take their medicine based on the information provided by their pharmacists. Mexico offers doctor phone consultations to patients who live in remote villages and already have more than three million patients.
mHealth has made health services more convenience for everybody. For example, in the past when a person feels sick, he has to go to a hospital, taking time from work sometime has to wait for hours to see a doctor. With mobile health, he can call a special number at his convenience time as soon as he feels the symptoms begin. There are doctors on the mobile service ready to talk to patients 24 hours a day. There are several apps and add on sensors on the mobile phone that can measure patients conditions (Heartbeat, pulse, temperature, blood glucose etc.). Instead of seeing patient in person and conducts a typical direct examination, mobile health can save time, costs and money for patients. In the past, doctor prescribes medicine and hopes patient takes it at prescribed times. With special mobile reminders application, it ensures that patient takes medicine as prescribed; it can report side effects or whether patients have taken the medicine, etc. to the doctor immediately.
mHealth services have the potential to further improve quality as well as reduce costs. Most chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart failure, cancers, and Alzheimer often require expensive treatments involving ongoing care that require frequent visit to a doctor. Now doctor can use mobile monitoring apps to monitor patients' condition remotely. This will create significant savings by lowering hospital visit. Mobile apps that remind patients and alert doctors to intervene in cases of non-compliance, e.g., insulin dosing or Tuberculosis treatment effectively. Patient data collection and analysis can help medical research and better manage disease.
The explosion of mHealth applications all over the world requires more mobile software developers and creates a high demand for graduates with this skill. This is one of the areas that still have critical shortage with a lot of job opportunities that students may want to pay attention.
- Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University