Posts Tagged ‘mHealth’

In 1969, the supersonic aircraft Concorde was the first commercial airliner to replace the traditional and burdensome mechanical and hydro-mechanical flight control systems with the more sophisticated and secure fly-by-wire system. In essence, in a fly-by-wire aircraft the pilot moves the joystick sending messages to a central computer that, once the order has been processed and checked against the rest of the information received from sensors installed along the aircraft, sends an order to the appropriate part of the aircraft, e.g. the engine or the wings.

When fly-by-wire was first introduced, pilots complained that they were not “sensing” the aircraft; they were losing the feeling of how the aircraft was responding. Nowadays more sophisticated algorithms have introduced a feed-back to the pilots, enabling them to “feel the aircraft” like in the old days.

Socio-health care is in the process of going through the same kind of revolution with the same kind of professionals’ complaints. e-Care is introducing a new paradigm into the care process. Many practitioners feel that through long-distance technology, telemedicine for instance, they are losing touch with their patients. Is that true?

Obviously I don’t think so. Haven’t we been using telephone calls as a substitute for face to face meetings since early in the last century? Is not a telephone call effective for solving a myriad of problems that, in the nineteenth century could have resulted even in a war due to the slowness of the response? Think about it: the tools that e-Care puts in our hands are here to solve in minutes what in the old care process would have taken, and still takes, days. Those days are precious when at the other end of the line there is a suffering human being.

e-Care, health or social, is here to help the patient. This is something we should never forget. It is also a tool to help the practitioner to work in a more efficient way. It means the practitioner has to adapt to a new care process, forgetting the old ways in which the patient waited patiently in the waiting room to be seen by the all mighty care professional. That same professional who would explain, in the best of cases in an incomprehensible manner, what was going on.

Today, the patient will demand a clear explanation. A demand full of questions fed by the knowledge, good or bad, acquired on the web. Today the patient will not be patiently waiting, but will be impatiently expecting your to-the-point answers at the other end of the ICT system.

But also today, as a professional you have at your fingertips, or better at your “mouse tips”, more information than you ever dreamed of having. And the combination of general information, together with the much better and accurate information about your patient, puts you on a professional level that your predecessors in the field were never able to achieve.

Do not miss the opportunity, go e-Care! The sooner the better for your patients, and also for you.

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Is there such a thing as a developed business model for delivering mHealth or are we stuck with pilot projects financed by well meaning public funds? I am afraid that, as Bill Gates stated in the mHealth conference recently held in Washington (DC), it is more the second than the first and that we are lacking concrete evidence on how mHealth works with big numbers.

My feeling is that the reason for such an state of things lays in the fact that most research into the field has being carried out by the mobile telecom sector and not as part of an strategic drive to make health care more efficient. In a more mundane wording, we have put the cart before the horse.

Probably a more long term and efficient approach would be to start by redesigning the way health care is delivered. By this I mean integrating preventive health care into the more traditional health care of responding to acute problems or urgent needs.

In my opinion, it is in preventive health care where mHealth could prove more useful. This feeling rests in the fact that, in most cases, an individual is a lot more active (*) when he/she belongs to the population group where prevention is important and should be targeted, than when the person has moved into a chronic situation or is suffering an acute health event.

Focusing on preventive health care we will have a big enough population to allow the development of a proper business model to support the functioning of a mHealth based preventive system. Note that I am talking about a business model for preventive health care using mHealth, and not a business model for mHealth.

(*) in this context I am using “active” to mean someone  more aware of his/her surroundings; ITC user literate; open to new ideas; etc.

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In one respect, underdeveloped countries are well ahead of developed ones. This is in the use of the simplest of ICT devices for enhancing people’s access to healthcare: the traditional mobile phone.

ICT developers are forcing developed societies into using the latest technology; maybe those with bigger benefits by any chance?. This could be the reason why telephone developers are trying to introduce, and very successfully, I have to say, sophisticated devices that, by the way, can even be used to call your friends and relatives! But, it is a fact that traditional mobile phones are cheap to produce and easy to use.

And there are plenty of examples, from India to Kenya, of very basic applications that are used to save lives. Yes, of course there are thousands of applications for – guess what? – the IPhone, smartphones running Android, or the Blackberry. But there are very few applications for the kind of device that a person in his or her 70’s will feel comfortable using.

And, isn’t the ageing of our societies the big problem that drains almost all of our Governments energies and resources? Isn’t the cost of taking care of those growing numbers of citizens the cause of the disintegration of the socio-health system as we know it? Why then not imitate India, Kenya and others and use simple cheap solutions for simple problems instead of the most expensive alternatives?

I certainly wouldn’t like to think that it is because industry as opposed to civil society, is the one calling the shots.  Or maybe it is?

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