Both consumers and physicians are beginning to tap into mobile health, one of the hottest health IT concepts for 2011. Some analysts believe the mobile health care market is poised for explosive growth and could be worth $1.7 billion by the end of 2014.
This guide takes an in-depth look at the latest trends in mobile health care, the technologies involved and the keys to privacy and security. It is part of SearchHealthIT.com’s Briefings series, which is designed to give IT leaders strategic guidance and advice that addresses the management and decision-making aspects of timely topics.
What is mobile health, or mHealth?
Mobile health, also known as mHealth, is a general term describing the use of mobile phones and other wireless technology in health care. Mobile health is a subset of telehealth, with a particular emphasis on the use of mobile phones for communication between patients and health care providers. It also includes the use of wireless medical devices for monitoring patients remotely.
Mobile health was one of the top health care tech trends of 2010. The majority of American adults use a cell phone, and many are using mobile devices to access health information online.
What are some examples of mobile health?
One popular instance of mobile health care is using text messaging to send information and reminders to patients. For example, the Department of Health & Human Services sends text messages with important health information and reminders to new and expectant mothers through its Text4baby mHealth program, which has over 100,000 participants enrolled. A mHealth trial program in Massachusetts used text messaging to remind pregnant women and substance abusers of appointments, care practices and other news.
Remote patient monitoring is another form of mobile health care involving devices that monitor patient health and then send the data electronically to a health care provider. Devices showcased at the 2010 mHealth Summitinclude a smart pill container that monitors and records when it’s been opened and closed; wearable personal infrared sensors that will assess diet, exercise and overall physical activity, and an infrared sensor that measures air pollution.
Mobile health apps are another popular example of mHealth. The U.S. government provides several mHealth apps — including a nutrition database and a UV index indicator — through its general mobile health application store for consumers. An iPhone app for diabetic teens leverages their interest in social media to help make diabetes data monitoring an interactive, engaging daily activity.
Mobile health also takes place within the clinical setting. Health care professionals are using smartphones and other mobile devices to communicate with each other, to access electronic health records (EHRs) and to educate patients.