According to a recent study conducted by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), chronic diseases account for 60% of the deaths in India, annually killing more than five million people every year. These diseases include various ailments such as diabetes strokes, cardiovascular diseases, mental health illnesses, cancers, and chronic lung diseases which will cost the country around Rs. 280 trillion between 2012 and 2030 in terms of economic output. Why are these numbers so high? Is there something we can do to reduce them?
While there is no definite answer to these questions, mHealth is one technology that is actively helping in reducing these numbers. One of the major problems in chronic diseases is that they cannot be treated in one go. Patients need to monitor their health on an ongoing basis and also need to maintain a constant communication with their doctors so that the doctors are able to keep a check on the patients’ health and monitor the effects of medicines. The introduction of mHealth has been a major breakthrough in this area since it works on concepts such as consolidated data and encourages faster and easier communication between the patient and the doctor.
So what exactly is mHealth? The use of mobile phones and other wireless technology in medical care can be termed as mHealth. This includes the use of Short Messaging Service (SMS), getting a consultation from your doctor/physician over the phone and the use of apps that are built for health management of the patients.
Health Record Management
Mobile apps make it easy to measure, track, and keep a record of various statistics related to chronic diseases such as blood glucose, weight, diet, and exercise. Instead of maintaining a record of these vitals on paper, patients can maintain their health records right on their phones for access from anywhere, anytime. This recorded data can then be easily shared with doctors, clinics, hospitals and laboratories without having to carry loads of paper reports.
Mobile has made the doctor-patient communication very easy and effective. Patients can communicate with their doctors through messaging apps, share their reports through apps and also maintain a history of their conversation. Patients also have the option to share their health data with the doctors and receive feedback and advice related to their health.
Mobile apps have made health management very convenient. For chronic health diseases, patients need to be extremely cautious and regular with regards to their medication. There are a few apps which intimate you with reminders to take your medicines at a particular time of the day and monitor the time when the medicine was actually taken – making the adherence to medication easier.
People suffering from chronic diseases need to keep a check on things like what they eat, how much they exercise, their heart rate, hemoglobin levels, etc. because excessively high or low numbers can have serious effects on their health. Mobile apps help them maintain a record of this data. With real-time access to data about their health, they can engage in personalised health management and know what is going on in their body. The meaningful insights offered by the data accumulated over a time helps patients is being more aware, responsible and proactive when it comes to maintaining their health issues.
Another major trend in mHealth is Interactive Voice Response (IVR). This is especially helpful in the rural parts of the country where the masses do not have access to the latest technologies or basic health care. IVR provides distant training to health workers with the use of a simple cell phone with text and talk capabilities. This provides the possibility for remote education, disease tracking, monitoring, data collection, diagnostic and treatment support, communication, and training. An evaluation of these activities showed that most of the users had a great experience and would like to see more such initiatives.
It is evident that twenty-first-century health care will be driven by mobile technologies rather than location-based diagnostics which can be carried out only in hospitals and clinics. We will be able to undertake treatments anytime and anywhere, making them as mobile as we are and ultimately change the face of how the healthcare industry has been functioning.