How Mobility is Changing the Way We Think About Digital Health

How Mobility is Changing Digital Health

As digital technology progresses, the public is becoming savvier too. At the same time, the digital revolution in health care is well on its way, supported by the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to track patient outcomes. Wearable technology wirelessly transmitting data and enabling a whole new health and wellness experience is becoming the norm.

Smart Patients in Charge of Their Health

Dr. Leslie Saxon, a cardiologist and executive director of the USC Center for Body Computing, describes the current medical model as a service model that does not always serve the best interest of the patient.

Being a patient is often challenging; for example, simply accessing one’s own medical records can be troublesome. The promise of easy accessibility is one of the reasons why medical professionals have welcomed digital technology. It has the potential to create a better experience for the patient by putting him or her in the driver’s seat, creating a more balanced partnership with providers.  

Nowadays many people have some of their health needs met by using digital tools. For instance, Saxon and her team at USC invented an app called a Biogram, which expands the care options of heart patients regardless of their geographical location. With the help of a heart rate monitor that is built into the user’s smartphone case, the user’s heart rate gets recorded and stored. Biogram, a free app developed using Apple’s ResearchKit, allows the user to share the image of his or her heart rhythm and post it online.

Different specialists can then examine the image, and the patient can receive timely feedback without even making a physical appointment. Moreover, this app can advance health research by collecting data from a large number of users and transforming them into research participants (providing the users give their consent).

This could become a potentially life-changing way of harnessing smartphone technology and could improve population health.

Communicating with Your (Virtual) Doctor

Virtual clinics where a patient can talk to a hologram of his or her physician are being trialed and might eventually enter the mainstream. It is already possible to access your doctor via smartphone to further discuss your treatment options and get evidence-based advice that is displayed on your phone’s monitor. Live video chats with specialists and other telemedicine modalities are becoming more common and are on the rise as the resolution of the camera on most modern smartphones is sufficient for medical examiners to perform many basic observations.

Virtual health care has benefits over traditional office visits; it allows medical providers to scale a personalized approach while enabling users quick access to health-care providers

Smartphones are Closing the Digital Divide

Many believe the popularity of smartphones is helping to bridge the digital divide.

As more people access information with the help of their phones, health-care information is easily accessible to anyone. Inexpensive and free medical mobile apps are educating and empowering people in novel ways. Mobile technology and apps can engage people who might otherwise stay disconnected. Moreover, smartphones are an excellent portal for disease prevention and can help people preserve their health and well-being by staying informed and health responsible.

Millennials might find smartphone technology particularly useful. Known for eagerly embracing new digital technology, this group in particular can easily be reached via this medium. The Young Invincibles — an NGO that acts as a research and advocacy group for 18- to 34-year-olds — recognizes the potential mobile technology has in improving the lives of young people. They encourage the use of smartphone apps to get familiar with different health-care options and to find health-care services. The organization also developed a free app called Healthy Young America, which aims to improve health-care literacy and access to primary care amongst millennials.

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