Chronic Health Management with mHealth

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.

Doctor-Patient Communication

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.

Health Management

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.

Rural Healthcare

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.

This Is What an Integrated Healthcare Experience Looks Like

The Indian healthcare industry is very fragmented. The whole ecosystem is largely manual and paper-based. Patients, today, have to go through a lot of hassles and stages to get a proper medical care. This leads them to be frustrated and irritated owing to factors such as long wait times, specialized physicians that are not easy to get hold of, and a medical system that is not easily accessible. The overall healthcare system in our country is at a very unorganized level. Patients need to take care of all documentation and records such as reports, x-rays, prescriptions, notes from doctors etc. manually and be responsible for all of them. This is a result of the fact that we do not have one integrated platform where all the information and content can be readily available and easily accessed by patients, doctors, physicians and anyone else who may be involved in the process of the treatment.

How can an integrated healthcare experience benefit the patients?

However, in recent years, the face of healthcare industry is changing and people are coming up with more healthcare options than we have ever been exposed to. India’s healthcare system is working towards technology-enabled collaborations to incorporate advanced techniques and ideas in the processes. These introductions aim towards creating a fully integrated healthcare system which will

  • Provide comprehensive solutions to all the individual entities such as patients, doctors, physicians, clinics, hospitals, laboratories, and medical stores.
  • The application and use of such a system will enable faster and more efficient communication between patients and doctors and make the entire system more smooth.
  • The use of cloud-based and mobile-based tools for storage and access of information will make them easily accessible at any time from any device. Such an experience is what can be defined as an integrated healthcare experience.

Better patient care at lower costs

Integrated care aims at taking a more comprehensive approach offering the patients with higher-quality and more efficient care that better meets their needs.

Along with that, it also tries to reduce the costs involved in the treatment by analysing the overall situation and taking the right steps at the right time. It can work around different approaches but the ultimate aim is to provide the patients with what is best for them.

In the case of patients suffering from chronic diseases, integrated care works towards creating a symbiosis between primary and secondary care to ensure more appropriate use of health care resources. It aims towards ensuring the availability of all types of services such as physicians, specialists, nutritionists and other health professionals for patients on a single platform.

With an integrated system, patients will be able to undergo diagnostic tests and get prescriptions filled in one go. They will be able to store a complete health history of themselves as well as their families online, thus avoiding the hassle of preserving physical documents.

Smooth communication between doctors, caregivers and patients and optimised costs

Another feat integrated care works towards achieving is to improve communication between a wider range of services. This facility will allow the patients who have undergone a treatment or surgery at a hospital to get discharged at an earlier time than the usual. They will then be provided with follow-up services and appropriate care. The aim is to reduce the hospital stay once the patients no longer require close treatment, thus reducing costs and optimising the overall process.

Patient Finance and Insurance Management

Patients will be also able to keep track of their healthcare finance management by quickly accessing their insurance credentials, insurance details, reimbursement that can be claimed through their insurance by accessing all the information on their mobile phones.

 Self care

Through access to all the healthcare analytics data, the patients will be able to decrease the risk of costly emergency interventions and thus reduce the chances of death. The insights provided by the integrated healthcare management system will allow the patients to keep a constant check on their health without having to visit your doctor each time. Old patients suffering from chronic diseases will be able to easily track their medications, get medication reminders, and reduce the chances of wrong medications.

While healthcare industry has developed a lot in the recent years and has seen many technological transformations, there is always scope to develop the existing services and aim at achieving higher levels of integration. Integrated healthcare systems provide a full continuum of services in a user-friendly manner, creating a one-stop environment to eliminate the cost of intermediaries, promote wellness, and improve overall health outcomes.

 

Here Is What You Need To Know About Thyroid Disorder

Thyroid is a disease that we have often heard of. We all know someone who is suffering from it. Depending on the severity of the disease, thyroid affects the body in various ways and needs to be kept under control. But do you know what exactly takes place in your body when you get thyroid? How can you be sure that you are suffering from it? As a matter of fact, most people suffering from it don’t even know that they have the disease! This is because the occurrence of this disease in your body is a slow and gradual process and there is no definite way of determining it.

In the recent years, the number of people suffering from thyroid in our country has increased rapidly. It tends to be very common among individuals falling in the age group of 20 to 40 years due to our unhealthy lifestyles and busy routines. A lot of times, the reasons may even be genetic. According to a study conducted on the victims of this disease, the number of people in India suffering from thyroid is 42 million. The problem with this disease is that unlike other diseases, the ease of diagnosis, the accessibility of medical treatment and the visibility that it offers the treating physician is very low and the only way to successfully keep it under control is an early diagnosis.

Introduction

So what exactly is thyroid? It is small, butterfly-shaped gland which is located at the base of your neck right below the Adam’s apple. This gland plays a huge role in your body when it comes to the regular functioning of some of the most important parts of your body such as heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin. A person suffers from thyroid disease when this gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones. This condition is termed at hypothyroidism. In the case of the thyroid gland becoming overactive and producing excess hormones, the condition is termed as hyperthyroidism. Both these conditions can have serious ill-effects on the body and, therefore, maintaining a balanced count of hormones produced by the thyroid gland is very important. Hypothyroidism can reduce the level of metabolism in the body and directly affect the bloodstream causing dysfunction in growth, development and other cellular processes. On the contrary, hyperthyroidism increases the metabolism rate and causes problems such as irregular heart rhythms and osteoporosis.

Symptoms

Initially, symptoms of thyroid in the body are very subtle and hence patients often tend to ignore them. Hypothyroidism is usually characterized by unexplained weight gain, hair loss, irregular menstrual flow, infertility, lethargy, rough voice and slow speech. The level of intensity of these systems can vary from patient to patient and can increase as the disease spreads into the body. Protruding and excessively drowsy eyes, hair loss or grey hair and a tender and lumpy throat along with difficulty in swallowing are some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

Diagnosis and Treatment

To determine whether you have thyroid or not, you need to get a blood test done to check the hormone levels in your body. The doctor will check for TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) and T4 (thyroxine). Extremely low or extremely high levels of T4 means that you need treatment. The doctor will prescribe a synthetic thyroid hormone T4 or advise you to undergo a surgery. Strong medications can interfere with how your body absorbs the synthetic thyroid hormone so it important that you choose a doctor who knows about all the medicines, herbs and supplements. Hypothyroidism in pregnant ladies can affect the baby and lead to problems with mental development. Severe conditions can cause unconsciousness or lead the person to go into a coma.

What can you do?

The best thing to do is conduct a self-examination on your thyroid gland if you experience any of the symptoms. Feel your thyroid gland by running your hands along the area right below your Adam’s apple. Check for any bumps or swelling. Tip your head back slightly. As you swallow and your windpipe rises and goes back to its original position, look at your neck. Check closely for a protrusion in the area. Repeat the procedure several times until you are sure and if not, go visit a doctor.

Thyroid is a long term disease and maintaining efficient functioning of your body while suffering from it is not always easy. Extreme cases can lead to anxiety, depression, stress and many other mental disorders. But with the right kind of precautionary measures, treatments, medication and advice from physicians, you will be able to keep it under control and keep your body healthy and happy.

Simple Steps for Prevention and Care from Viral Flu

It’s Monsoon – the season for colourful umbrellas and waterproof jackets. It’s the season for trekking, picnics, and hot cuppa ginger tea. It’s the season of cloud-laden sky when the greenery returns to the garden and there is a respite from the scorching heat of the summer.

But the monsoon season is a mixed blessing. It also brings with it some health ailments like cold, cough, sore throat, allergies, and stomach problems. One of the common problems affecting people during this season is the viral flu. Every year, millions of people fall prey to the wrath of the terrible flu, also popularly termed as Influenza. According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 5% to 20% of the population in the United States is affected by the flu each year and as many as 2,00,000 people need to be hospitalized every year for flu-related complications. There are a lot of cases where the effect of the flu becomes severe and increases the risk of diseases such as malaria and dengue. Very severe cases of flu, malaria or dengue can also prove to be fatal.

The numbers just go to say that you must not take cases of cold, cough and fever lightly. The condition might seem ordinary at first but the chances of it turning into a severe case of a serious disease are also high. And as goes the popular saying, ‘Prevention is better than cure’. Small practices such as eating healthy and working on ways to increase your immunity can make a lot of difference to your lifestyle and avoid quite a few health-related hassles in the future. Here are some basic measures you can take:

  • Avoid close contact with anybody who is sick. Germs and bacteria carrying the flu are extremely contagious and can spread majorly through inhalation of air. Keep your distance from people when you are sick to avoid spreading the virus.
  • When you are sick, stay at home as much as you can and stay warm. Being in a public place makes it very difficult to isolate yourself from people and keep them away from the infection. Staying at home will also provide you with the best comfort and rest so that your body can recover quickly. By resting, you will help your body in fighting the infection.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue paper or handkerchief when you are sick and need to sneeze. This will prevent the germs from spreading all around you.
  • Wash your hands as often as possible and keep them clean. For those of us who are out in the open most of the time and end up making contact with a lot of dirty and unhygienic items, washing hands with a good soap will help you get rid of the bacteria. In case of unavailability of soap, use a sanitizer or any alcohol-based rub.
  • Practice healthy eating habits. Eat foods that will provide you with enough vitamins, proteins and minerals, and will help build up your immunity. Drink a lot of water. Fluids help in detoxifying your body. Fluids also help thin mucus so that it’s is expelled easily.
  • Try home remedies like drinking a cup of ginger tea, having honey in tea with lemon, adding garlic supplement to your diet, and gargling with salt water.
  • Get a flu vaccine. Flu vaccination can reduce illnesses, doctors’ visits and days of missing work to a large extent as well as avoid cases of hospitalization. It is recommended that everyone who is six months or older must get a flu vaccine.

Flu symptoms include cold, cough, fever, sore throat, runny nose, headache, body ache, chills, and fatigue. In severe cases, the patient may even suffer from vomiting and diarrhoea. Check for these symptoms and visit a doctor to get prescribed medicines and start the treatment. Absolutely avoid self medication.

Changes in weather conditions is a phenomenon that occurs naturally and nobody can stop the adverse effects it causes to our body. Taking good care of ourselves, eating right and leading a balanced lifestyle is what will help us in staying fit and healthy in the long run.

A Guide to Healthcare IoT Opportunities

The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the newest trends in technology and going by the research and buzz around it, it is clear that IoT has the potential to transform the healthcare sector as well as change our lives. This Healthcare IoT sector is on the high rise with every passing year. Analysts at MarketResearch.com claim that the worth of this sector is estimated to reach $117 million by the year 2020.

While the definitions of IoT may vary, essentially it essentially means transfer and exchange of data between systems, consumers, and devices. The increasing adoption of wearables is just the first step towards the huge potential of IoT in healthcare. With IoT, consumers are now able to take control of their own health and that too, in a very personalized manner.

Let us have a look at a few areas where IoT can have or is already having a huge impact –

Chronic Disease Management

Patients with chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetics or heart diseases often have access to devices such as glucometers, pedometers or blood pressure monitors which they use regularly. The task for them is to maintain a record of their readings and present those to the doctor during the doctor’s visit. Any misrepresentation of data or incomplete information can affect the doctor’s judgment and treatment. IoT can bridge this gap – the devices can automatically send the periodic data to the doctor. The doctor can then perform various analytics on the data. With this, when the patient visits the doctor next, the doctor not only has the complete and accurate information about the patient’s readings but he also has opportunity to do the analysis himself and tweak the treatment.

Remote Health Monitoring

With Remote Health Monitoring, patients can receive the right care without leaving their homes. Through sensors or smartphone apps, the vital parameters of the patients can be constantly monitored and immediate alerts can be sent to the healthcare practitioner in case any concern. In case of any issues, the doctor can immediately connect with the patient through video consultation or mobile consultation and accordingly prescribe medication. Elderly patients find remote monitoring quite comforting because they can be assured that they are being constantly monitored and also have the option to speak to their doctor without having to leave their homes.

Preventive Care and Wellness

Wearables have taken the world by storm. Health enthusiasts swear by the fact that fitness bands have made them more cautious about their health. With wearable technology, consumers are able to monitor their crucial health parameters on a regular basis and are able to supervise their own health conveniently.

Medication Dispensing

Medication dispensing service is one of the most successful applications of IoT. Elderly people face several issues with their medication – they tend to forget to take their medication, sometimes they take the wrong pills or take incorrect doses. Medication dispensing device relieves the patients from this worry – Through a light or voice reminder, it alerts a patient when it’s time to take medication. On getting the reminder alert, the patient has an option to push a button and the right medication with the right dosage is automatically dispensed. The device is synced to the user’s phone keeping a complete record of missing doses, medication refill time etc.

While the applications and uses of Internet of Things technology are innumerable and the implementations have the potential to bring a positive change in the lives of patients at large, it could raise concerns around data security and privacy. Although most of the current communication from devices happens through the cloud, the data cannot be claimed to be immune from hackers. Different devices coming from different systems don’t necessarily have common controls around them. We are sure that as the adoption grows, these issues will be ironed out because IoT definitely has the significant potential to lower healthcare costs, improve case, improve patient outcomes, and enhance decision making.