Health apps to improve citizens' lives
Mobile health (m-health) tools are helping socially disadvantaged citizens with diabetes around the world better manage their condition, a report from the non-profit group eHealth Initative (eHI) says.
According to the study, patients that use their mobile health apps on their devices can avoid the obstacles that often cause a bad management of the diseases, such as lack of access to health care providers, limited resources and staff, or older systems.
“The majority of patients, including those who are disadvantaged, have access to a mobile device or smartphone." said Jennifer Covich Bordenick, Chief Executive Officer of eHI. "The use of mHealth tools provides a straightforward way for all populations to access information that assists in reducing risk factors."
"This study shows the potential for mobile applications to improve disease management among all populations and how patients can play a central and active role in effectively managing their health," said Dr. Sophia Chang, director of CHCF's Better Chronic Disease Care program.
But this is not only limited to diabetes, online and mobile services can be also useful to deal with other health problems. Citizens can use smartphone apps to count calories, obtain nutrition information, create fitness workout, calculate disease risks and even monitor adherence to medications. Besides, they can receive emails or text messages with health advices, regardless of their socio-economic status, age, education level, or geographical location.
Due to the big obesity figures in the country, the Australian government launched Swap It Don't Stop It, a health app which helps citizens make healthier choices and exchange, for example, sweets for nuts. Likewise, users can save their progress and also create an agenda to remind when they have to make a swap.
The American iTriage app, combines open health data with a large database of symptoms and a directory of healthcare service providers. Users can get quality reports on doctors, research symptoms, click to see nearby healthcare facilities and, where available, view emergency room wait times.
At European-level the Radboud Reshape and Innovation Center in the Netherlands, has created four mobile health apps. One of them is REshape HealthTalk which enables translation during healthcare visits for non-native speakers. In Spain, Doctoralia offers the possibility to find, rate and contact medical services in 17 countries worldwide.
In 2011, the European Commission launched a consultation on the e-Health Action Plan (eHAP) 2012-2020, which aims to consolidate the actions which have been addressed to date. The Digital Agenda for Europe as well as Innovation Union and its associated European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing are working to take them a step further where possible and provide a longer term vision for eHealth in the Member States.
Today, EU citizens can have a guide to better understand the Health Insurance Card on their devices, thanks to an application launched by the Commission in June. The tool is available on three different platforms: iOS, Android and Windows 7 mobile.
Europe is trying to be active in the e-Health territory and to build health apps is, without any doubt, a safe bet in the technological world where we live.