For years, people have been using the Internet as a tool to learn more about their personal health. Whether it is a local blog or the all-knowing WebMD, we have all been guilty of taking the health information available online and using it to self-diagnose our aches, pains, symptoms, and ailments. By researching our symptoms, we are categorizing ourselves and our health.
Your health and symptoms should be personalized to you. To fully diagnose your symptoms, we should be looking at our overall health. Not just at the symptom by itself.
Your chemical makeup is not the same as your neighbour's, friend, or spouse. Your health and its needs should be determined based on your habits. What you eat, how much you sleep, if you get stressed out, and how often you exercise all reflect on your health. Habits can contribute to symptoms, and they could be used to help find the best and fastest way for your body to heal.
What if the Internet and our mobile devices could become a reliable tool for your health? Would your phone then know more about your health than your doctor?
The healthcare industry has seen some of the most innovative technology. In 2013, doctors were able to grow a human liver from stem cells and develop a kidney in vitro. One of the biggest developments in healthcare we have seen is mhealth. Mobile health is freeing healthcare devices of wires and cords. It is enabling physicians and patients to check their healthcare processes on the go.
#MHealth has the opportunity to take healthcare monitoring out of the clinic, out of the hospital, out of the lab and basically be a part of your life. It is making health more accessible worldwide.
Patients are seeking more information about their personal health. They are now tracking how well they are sleeping, how many calories they are burning, and what nutrients they are putting in their body. By monitoring your health, you can gain data that you would never receive at the doctors. By sharing the data with your doctor, they will have more clarity, be able to personalize your health. Your doctor will then be able to work with you and understand exactly what your body needs. Instead of just helping you cure ailments and diminish pain. Your doctor will be able to help you prevent them and achieve longterm health.
This desire by patients to know more about their bodies has led to a surge of health-related apps on the market. One research firm suggests that there are more than 100,000 health apps available in the iTunes and Google Play stores alone.
Knowing the possibility that mhealth has, and how the innovation behind the technology is limitless. We must ask the question again:
Could your mobile device possibly know more about your personal health than your doctor?
A 2015 survey by Makovsky/Kelton suggests that this reality might not be too far off. Two-thirds of Americans prefer digital health management over regular doctor appointments. 79% of Americans would have no issue wearing a wearable device as a means of managing their health.
MHealth could never entirely replace your doctor. However, it does warrant a discussion of the role that it can play in our healthcare system. Not only in the way of creating a stronger picture of your health but also in how you use that information when consulting with your physician.
Consider the following ways mobile health could make a difference at your next doctor's visit:
Completeness of Information
Traditionally, individuals visit their family doctor once or twice a year for a physical. Medical professionals then track the changes from one appointment to the next. This leaves huge gaps between each doctor appointments. A lot can change and happen to your health in a few months that your doctor will not be aware of. By using mobile health data, your yearly doctor's appointment will be more accurate.
If an individual begins to sleep less, gain weight or have an increase in heart rate or blood pressure - that can be tracked with mhealth. Accurate tracking will create a comprehensive baseline that medical professionals will be able to use to identify, understand, and treat changes in your personal health. Mhealth could serve as a "bridge" between regularly scheduled doctors's appointments. This approach recognizes the value of a doctor's ability to identify issues in a face-to-face setting and helps them treat you more efficiently.
A Tool for Communication
With all the discussion about tracking and measuring your health, it is easy to forget what our mobile devices were designed to do: communicate. Mhealth was designed to simplify your health. You don't need a doctor to read your fitness and nutrition charts for you.
The Health Ecosystem
As technological advances continue to diversify the healthcare space, we will see new systems emerge. These systems will work hard to help you understand your health and provide solutions to make positive changes.
A study of the top health industry issues of 2016 by PwC's Health Research Institute asked people about their level of comfort regarding sharing personal information with healthcare providers. They found that 83% of consumers said they were "happy to share, especially for personal benefit."
While the days of combing internet search results and exclaiming, "I think I have that!" are quickly moving behind us. It is increasingly apparent that the healthcare space is moving towards the mobile market in ways that will both advance and diversify how we understand our personal health. Questions will emerge around what information medical professionals value, what level of accuracy is required to be medically valid, and how we are working to make sure this sensitive personal health information is kept secure.
With that in mind, there is one thing we can be sure of -- our mobile devices have the ability to know a lot more about our health than ever before.
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