The term eHealth (also written e-Health) refers to the use of information technology applied to all kinds of medical scenarios, ranging from the treatment of medical records to trendy disciplines like telemedicine.
Recent developments in both communications infrastructures and mobile terminals have increasingly made our smartphones and tablets trustful allies for monitoring and protecting our health.
Our smartphones are becoming angels on our shoulders in health issues, the perfect assistant that, whether by their own (the Samsung Galaxy S4 is a good example) or with the help of certain accessories (bracelets and other items integrated into clothing or the body), allow the monitoring of our physical activity and give us a virtual scolding when we don’t meet the objectives.
This digital eagerness for a good physical and nutritional balance is one of the hallmarks of the introduction of mobile phones in the field of health. Phones are with us practically all day long, and hence are direct witnesses of our physical activity, of what we are eating, and of how many hours we sleep — if that’s our wish, of course.
In fact, they can be more than just witnesses — they can be unforgiven judges condemning us to good practices. Moreover, they can do it in a fun way, with gamification techniques to enrich the interaction: challenging a friend or a partner can be a powerful way to deal with the need for taking care of ourselves, and mobiles are the perfect instrument to explore it.
Medical applications created in relation to mobile communications are getting more and more amazing. Manufacturers have realized the potential of these solutions — we have here a good example in LifeWatch, a company producing smartphones specifically designed to control particular aspects of our health.
LifeWatch V is an Android-based smartphone that integrates a number of sensors. As a result of its use, we can obtain measures such as blood glucose, heart rate, oxygen saturation, amount of body mass and, of course, temperature.
Mobile phones are thus becoming a kind of Swiss army knife in the field of health which help us control some parameters and even react in case there are warnings of any kind. There are smartphones specifically designed to work in the health field like the one mentioned here, but we also have at our disposal a wide range of accessories — especially for popular mobiles like the iPhone. These also have the vocation of health workers at our service. They do the job 24 hours per day, 7 days a week.
Thermodo, a small thermometer compatible with both Android and iOS devices is a sign of the increasing interest in this area. This gadget has been successfully crowdfunded after a collective campaign on Kickstarter: its creators received as much as 10 times the investment needed to start up the project. It’s clear that some audiences are keen to have the option of using their mobile phones as a tool to monitor and improve their health.
The aforementioned eHealth is the cornerstone of all efforts to integrate diverse technological solutions in the field of health, while the so-called mHealth is centered on mobile solutions.
These solutions become even sounder in developing countries, where healthcare and medical issues are much more precarious. The massive introduction of mobile devices appears to be imminent in many countries — especially in the wake of the Firefox OS phone —, so these devices could reach sensitive targets and help improve significantly their situation.
Such support would materialize not only in the information management — i.e. health information systems — but in the monitoring and implementation of telemedicine services which could take advantage from smartphones as vehicles of medical interactions less complicated than physician’s office visits.
Within these efforts we could include some educational and training programs (we can find a good example of the latter in the Mwana project) that can be much more effective through mobiles. The same can be said about sensitive issues such as the monitoring of epidemics. In brief, if the advantages offered by mobile phones are increasingly relevant in developed countries, its importance in emerging and developing countries seems even critical.
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