Expanding Mobile Access Leads to More Self-Care

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Evidence pointing to increase in health and wellness opportunities available via mobile devices

By Chad Udell, Float Mobile Learning

America’s population is aging. Domestically, the first of the baby boomers – born in 1946 – began turning 65 in 2011, and that population will continue to do so over the next two decades. In developing countries worldwide, there are only 11 million hospital beds but more than 2 billion mobile phones, or approximately 200 mobile phones per hospital bed.

The evidence already points to a trend developing in medical and healthcare apps: “do-it-yourself” (DIY) mobile health, or mHealth. These apps can be broken down into four categories:

Wellness apps support prevention of medical problems and diseases.

Self-diagnosis and care apps allow people to identify, treat or manage their own medical issues. This is done sometimes in conjunction with hardware monitoring.

Apps for emergencies and emergency training take advantage of mobile’s capabilities to support people in extreme situations.

And finally, home care apps support health workers or non-medical caregivers in taking care of a person at home. Examples include patient education and support apps that teach people more about their medical conditions, reminders to take prescribed medicine and support apps for advice and counseling.

The digital tracking firm comScore reported that 234 million Americans ages 13 and older used mobile devices in November 2011. In the same period, 91.4 million Americans owned smartphones, up 8 percent from the preceding three-month period. Further, research has shown that doctors are 250 percent more likely to own a tablet than everyday Americans.

With the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets, medical and healthcare professionals have projected many uses for mobile devices: QR codes, text messaging, podcasts, social media, video capabilities, apps and gamification.

Smartphones are already being used in innovative ways, from CPR training apps to apps that let the user record and play back a heartbeat. And with medical and healthcare apps as the third-fastest growing category in both the Android Marketplace and the Apple App Store, mHealth is poised to take off, bringing tremendous benefits to both consumers and medical professionals.

As managing director of Float Mobile Learning, Chad Udell designs, develops and manages interactive Web and mobile projects. Chad is also the co-author of a recent series of reports on the state of mobile in the healthcare industry. Follow him on Twitter at @visualrinse.

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