Mobile Health Overview

Tele-health (aka mobile health) is slowly evolving to provide our loved ones with the best medical care in the fastest way possible and as efficient as possible. Technology in the health industry is in diverse fields. Giving care to people with dementia and other chronic neuro-degenerative ailments has been extremely stressful in the past. Not only does tele-health make life easier for patients but also for caregivers. Tele-health has already been adopted in a horde of medical categories. Some apps have been developed to enable patient access to medical services from the comfort of their homes. Other innovations have been made in 3D printing and post-transplant weight gain and many more. Sometimes it is not the programs that focus on patients more that are most effective, programs that support both the caregiver and the patient have proved to have a bigger impact on the growth of the health industry. However, it is important to note that most of the healthcare IT support should be focused on giving the patient a smooth healing process.

Related Read: Telehealth jobs

The impact of tele-health on the lives of both the caregiver and the patient has been on the rise with improvement of technology. Here are some of the latest developments in healthcare sector:

Tackling of Dangerous Post-Transplant Weight Gain 
Researchers from the University of Kansas have found a three-month tele-health program targeting transplant patients is helping them in diet improvement and activity. It is also eliminating potentially fatal weight gain. A pilot program in tele-health that was developed in Kansas University Medical Center aided patients who had had kidney transplant in reducing weight gain and improving their diet in months following the transplant. The program showed much promise in reducing chances of organ rejection and a couple of other serious health outcomes.

Only 10% of those who enrolled for the pilot program did not follow it through to the end. The rest (90%) were very pleased with the result of the program saying that they would recommend the program to other transplant patients. Researchers are now looking for the backing of National Institutes of Health to expand the program and accommodate more transplant patients. In 2017, there were 19,849 Kidney transplants done in the US. The University of Kansas Health System Center for Transplants conducted around 130 of them. Together with her colleges, Cherl Gibson, a professor of internal medicine at KU Medical Center and lead researcher, developed the program targeting post-transplant weight gain in these kidney transplant patients.

Gibson said that the program opened the team’s eyes on how the telemedicine program works and the program is well tailored for kidney transplant patients. She added that their hope is that the technology will be eventually used in all the kinds of chronic health conditions. According to Gibson, obesity after transplants puts the patient at a high risk of graft failure and cardiovascular disease among many other problems. She added that when placed on the waiting list for transplants, their chances of getting another kidney are often slim due to their obese conditions. Further, repeat of transplants puts those patients at greater risk of rejection.

Gibson formed a connected health platform working with Dr. Aditi Gupta, who is a transplant nephrologist, and Rebecca Mount. Mount, in her capacity as a registered dietician, would educate patients on nutrition and diet, goal setting, portion control, self-monitoring, planning as well as shopping for meals. She would also educate on cooking skills and tips on how to eat healthy away from home. Also in the team was an associate professor of health, Leon Greene, who led half an hour physical activity sessions aimed at getting the patients to move around the house more frequently each day. According to Gibson, she and her colleagues found more value beyond weight gain prevention in the tele-health program. She said that virtual care platforms enabled the patients to participate in education and exercise programs while at home hence avoiding to travel to and from a gym or health center. Social value is also one of the perks of the program.

KU joins a consistently increasing number of health systems that are using telehealth to connect the patients to telemedicine platforms before and after transplant. This will aid in the delivery of better care, coordination and patient management. Both the Vanderbilt University Transplant Center and the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine have expanded and created telemedicine platforms for the transplant patients in the course of this year. In a news release dealt out by the UAB, the medical director at the Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program, Clifton Kew, said that being able to talk to the patients through mobile health not only saves the patient and doctor time, but also relieves the patient of the burden of having to travel to see doctors for annual appointments. This, according to Clifton, would help the patients continue on the healing path.

The KU program has also illustrated the rapid growth of telemedicine and mobile health programs in terms of post-rehabilitation in a wide range of surgeries from joint replacements to simple surgeries. The element of nutritional education closely follows the development of online programs in health awareness especially for patients with chronic conditions.

Using Telehealth Technology to Aid Seniors to Age in Place 
Through innovative platforms and internet, mobile health is now able to teach today’s and tomorrow’s (soon-to-be seniors) how they can peacefully live out their ideal golden years at the comfort of their homes. There has been a surge as projected in 2006 by Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO at AARP at a connected health conference, in the number of Baby Boomers. This, combined with the overtaxed healthcare system that is running out of nurses and doctors, puts a lot of pressure on the elderly and their caretakers. The new mobile health platforms and mobile health devices are not only helping the elderly live longer, but also making them more health conscious and active. There are also medical programs that are designed to improve clinical and social outcomes at senior living facilities as well as long-term care facilities.

Technology has for a long time been used to aid seniors in day-to-day activities through easy-to-use tablets, remote control devices and laptops. These devices often have larger buttons for easier use and quick links to their favorite communication tools and sites. Telehealth entrepreneurs are now investing on systems and platforms that integrate healthcare services with senior services in recognition of the importance of the well-being of the seniors. Now the seniors’ devices have been modified to include a link to one’s care service provider, from primary care doctors to the next-door neighbor who gives them a hand with their daily medication.

The evolving technology now includes telehealth sensors, healthcare IT, clothing, PERS pendants, wearables, and accessories like belts and shoes that now accommodate medical monitors to keep the senior’s health in check through the information sent to the care team’s server. The more senior-friendly health and tele-health technologies include:

• Personal home assistants: Google Home, Amazon Alexa and other smart devices are now being used by seniors and senior living facilities to keep them updated about their daily plans such as when to visit the doctor, when to take blood glucose readings, medications, exercise and many more. The seniors can also summon help or answer wellness questions to evaluate their health.

• Smart medication containers: mHealth devices are being installed in pillboxes to remind the seniors when their prescriptions are due as well as which medication to take and how much. These devices have a diverse way of notifying the senior with some flashing lights while others make specific sounds. They can also send text messages to the senior’s tablet or smartphone. Additionally, they measure adherence, recording the frequency of consumption of the medicine. Sometime this happens using a video to be certain that the senior is actually taking the drug.

• Sensor-embedded clothing: Shoes, clothes, belts and even socks are having sensors embedded in them to measure the activities of the seniors. The goal is often to identify any unsteady gait, loss of balance and prevent falls, or alarming the care takers if a fall happens. There are also sensors embedded in certain parts of clothing to record temperature, irregular movements, heart rate and could even indicate confusion.

• A smart home: The Internet of Things (IoT) and healthcare IT enables the senior’s apartment to feature a horde of tele-health helpers. These could be motion detectors that monitor the movement of the senior around the house and outdoors. Some are installed in the refrigerator to keep check on what the senior eats. Others are embedded in the mattresses to measure sleep and vital signs. There are also others connected to weight scales, links to care team through the television and even personal robots that help in medication management, provide companionship and deliver reminders. Seniors now have a very wide range of sensors to choose from. If they are concerned about their privacy, the care team can get some sensors installed that do not infringe on his/her personal privacy such as bathroom visits.

While the rate of innovation seems to be reducing, experts say that they expect them to be more intuitive in the future. The platforms will soon be able to put the data into medical records in addition to contacting caregivers.