THE ABILITY to interpret key factors that influence health and wellbeing is increasingly mediated through technology.
Such technology provides real-time and valid information about patients, individuals, our movements and interactions with the environment, social networks and specific population groups.
The term ‘mHealth’ generally refers to medical and public health practices supported or assisted by mobiles devices.
These devices may include mobile phones, patient monitoring devices, personal digital assistants (PDAs), tablets and other wireless devices.
It capitalises on technologies such as voice and short messaging services (SMS), bluetooth, general packet radio services (PRS), global positioning systems (GPS), and third, fourth and fifth generation (3G, 4G and 5G) mobile telecommunications.
Digital Connectivity and Mobile Devices
With digital connectivity insinuating itself into our lives through the spread and reach of the internet-accessible devices, new possibilities for measuring vital health data are emerging daily.
The advent of smart phones and the popularity of tablets and other mobile devices have changed the ground rules for health evaluation, diagnosis and treatment.
In developed countries, the mobile phone has been rapidly and widely adopted amongst users across nearly all demographic groups.
According to the 2012 Australian Mobile Phone Lifestyle Index (AMPLI) survey results, 76% of those surveyed possessed a smartphone, and this was anticipated to keep increasing through 2013.
It is not just the volume of mobile device users which is increasing, so too is the spread of application types.
Emerging Health Opportunities
This is producing significant excitement in the global health community.
Sensors directly applied to patients are able to provide real-time streams of information that is invaluable to health professionals.
This information can enhance our knowledge of a person’s physiology, behaviour and interactions with their environment in any location and at any given moment.
The data collected coupled with real-time professional access to this can significantly influence health interventions, and in turn yield further information on which our health professionals are able to act.
There is also the ability to yield important information and insights about the factors and risks that lead to disease.
Mobil health devices present game-changing opportunities in terms of improving access to health in developed countries.
They also hold out prospects for accessing previously unreachable communities in developing countries.