Smartphones are penetrating various aspects of our everyday life than ever before. According to a report by the GSMA, a body that represents mobile operators worldwide, there will be 6 billion smartphone users by 2020. The healthcare industry is expected to go through radical changes as smartphones change client-doctor relationships, give more power to patients on issues to do with their health, play an active role in preventive health, manage medical conditions, etc. Mobile healthcare will lead to an overall reduction in the cost of accessing healthcare as well as provide greater convenience for patients. A combination of smartphone hardware capabilities with IOT and Data Analytics technology is powering a new revolution. Evidence of this revolution can be seen in the big increase in the number of health and fitness wearables that were on show at the 2015 CES conference, as compared to other years. So how exactly will the smartphone, IOT and Data Analytics revolutionize healthcare? The following identified major trends give a clue.
1. “Smart Devices” will take over some of the mundane tasks done by health workersYou may have heard of smart meters, smart alarms, and even smart shoes that are being developed by Google to help their owners find directions, etc. All these devices have one thing in common: they involve the collection, transfer and analysis of data between the device and a remote server. This data may be used to control the device or stored for other purposes. The healthcare sector lags behind in the adoption of smart devices to provide better services. With the exception being the wellness and fitness subsector where a number of products exist that integrate smartphone, IOT and data analytics technologies. Perfect examples are some modern gym machines that collect data on your exercises using sensors and send it to a mobile phone app or cloud software, so you can analyze your fitness goals. Smart devices, most which are still in the research and development phase, will boost provision of mobile healthcare solutions through the ability to diagnose symptoms, real-time monitoring of diseases, triggering doctors visit where necessary or automatically writing a prescription for certain conditions. We are most likely to see them used in preventive healthcare as the monitoring, reporting and analytic capabilities will make them more reliable than having to always call a nurse or visit a doctor to do the same.
2. Patients will Play a much more Active Role in Managing their HealthBeing able to collect and analyze information about their health in real-time will give patients more power in managing their health, especially in preventing and detecting certain diseases. Think about a smartphone app connected to a wearable device that is keeping track of your sugar levels. Your sugar levels will rise and fall with the kind of food you eat at different times of the day. However, abnormal sugar levels in the blood could be signs of the onset of diabetes. These can be easily detected and medical intervention sought promptly. It will no longer be necessary for patients to always visit the doctor to access important information about their blood pressure, heart rate, etc. There are already devices on the market that have these abilities, so one may question how these are any different. The usage of IOT and Data Analysis with mobile phone technology is key. Mobile health solutions that combine these technologies go beyond just taking your heart rate, temperature, weight, sugar levels etc. They are connected to sophisticated systems that allow for high-level analysis without human intervention.
3. Cost of Healthcare and Medicines to Go DownWith patients taking over certain tasks to do with their own health, less visit to the doctor are required. Smartphone apps will be able to send important data in real-time to the doctor, as well as offer automatic diagnosis for certain conditions. The ability to take and store large amounts of data in real time will lower the costs of research into new drugs. This will be dependent of course on patients being willing to share their data stored on cloud servers with researchers. Big Data can be employed to analyze larger samples of information than ever done before, to enable researchers get stats on diseases and develop new drugs.
Limitations and ConcernsThere are of course some limitations in the use of mobile health solutions. There has been a low uptake in the use of healthcare smart/intelligent devices, with a survey report released by Accenture in January 2015, showing that only 8% of consumers purchased fitness wearables last year. Data on consumers using smart devices in healthcare is likely to show a similar pattern. Major reasons cited for consumer apathy include complication in operating the devices and difficulty in setting them up. While we are likely to see mobile health devices penetrating other areas of healthcare, regulations are likely to slow down their introduction into the market. Issues over patient data security and privacy will also have many consumers concerned. Despite these concerns and limitations, adoption of mobile health solutions is expected to witness fast growth in the next few years.
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