Often times it’s the really important changes in the world that go unnoticed for a while. Mobile Health, also known as mHealth, has come a long way in making serious improvements to the health and welfare of countless people. The use of mobile communication devices such as phones, PDA’s, and tablet computers in the Health Industry started small, in the early 2000’s, and has escalated to a global movement.
In the beginning, cell phones were used in minor ways, such as text message reminders to patients about their doctor appointments, or medical personnel ordering prescription medications for patients. The recent developments of innovative medical software applications and programs have made it possible to collect and store immense amounts of medical data in an eHealth system. Organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) came to realize the incredible potential of using mobile technology to collect health data globally. With the exponential increase of the number of mobile phone and device users in low-income countries, as well as in middle-income countries, the value of mHealth has reached significant heights.
Doctors and health workers can access detailed medical procedures, medicinal information, and patient health stats using mobile devices. The ease of use is perfect for transmitting images (telemedicine), performing remote diagnostics, and for patient monitoring devices. The advantage to patients in remote or rural areas has been one of the best uses of mHealth technologies; a particular achievement that has long been awaited.
The advances in mHealth capabilities allow for a continuous flow of information on medical data concerning diseases, immunizations, death and birth rates, for just a few examples. The acknowledgement by WHO, stating that air pollution has shown itself to be responsible for almost 1.5 % of the world’s mortality rate, has led to the use of mobile phone technologies that can collect pollution data. The various data can be assimilated for the benefit of analysis and used as a basis of change in medical and global policies, as well as creating a uniform health system such as never before.
Mobile Health conferences, such as the one held at Stanford University in 2011 and the upcoming 2012 GMSA-mHA Summit, are doing an extraordinary job in bringing the physicians and health workers together with the software and technology providers. The communication between the separate industries has certainly stimulated the growth of mHealth. While the doctors are being educated on the mobile device technology uses available to them, the IT and mobile technology industries are learning to fill in the missing pieces, wherever the health industry finds it lacking.
The world has always been divided into the isolated camps of the haves and the have-nots. There are still countries whose people live on the edge of subsistence and existence. It would be hard to say that much has changed in that regard over the last few years, but Mobile Health at least is bridging the health gap across the world. It can’t be denied that science is performing new feats in leaps and bounds, and mHealth appears to be in the forefront.