A doctor’s visit usually lasts less than 30 minutes. If you have an annual checkup, that’s less than .001% of a year that your doctor will see you and make judgments about your health. If you are healthy, that may be sufficient. But what if you are not?
Has your car ever made a funny sound for only a few minutes, or had a fault light come on but then go away? Since 1996 cars have been storing engine faults in memory, and newer vehicles with OnStar can run regular diagnostic checks and e-mail the results. Now, we can do that for your body.
Smartphones and cellular technology have enabled a broad spectrum of bodily functions to be monitored, providing immediate feedback on your health. Devices from blood pressure cuffs to glucose meters to weight scales easily connect to smartphone apps that track key health indicators. The GPS in a phone can be used to warn people with asthma or pulmonary disease of smog alerts or high pollen counts, and then the smartphone can track the use of an inhaler to aid breathing.
All of this wouldn’t be possible without open standards to connect the devices, a network to enable communication, and analytic applications to track your health. The standards and communications architecture have been defined by the Continua industry organization. The network is usually cellular or the Internet. And analytics range from simple bounds checking apps to complex decision algorithms that consider not only input from your monitoring device, but also from your medical records and other relevant information.
With the cost of smartphones and medical devices dropping dramatically, and increased reimbursement by health plans, more people are being monitored. This creates a virtuous cycle where the positive results – improved health and reduced cost – encourage expanding monitoring programs to a greater number of patients with a wider variety of conditions. In fact, the more data points that are collected, the better the analytics applications will become at identifying potential health issues, long before they become serious medical problems. It’s not unrealistic to imagine a time in the near future when anyone can opt in to monitor their health.
The list of potential uses is endless: Monitoring expecting mothers and their babies, tracking the recovery of patients recently discharged after surgery, managing medication compliance. Or just keeping track of how much you exercise. It’s all medically relevant information that your doctor can use to keep you healthy – the other 525,570 minutes of the year you are not in her office.
Join us on Friday, June 15, for a Smarter Friday chat on the People for a Smarter Planet Facebook page where we’ll discuss the future of mobile healthcare and how we can stay connected and well. Members of the Continua Health Alliance, a non-profit, open industry organization of healthcare and technology collaborating to improve the quality of personal healthcare, will also join this conversation about the future of mobile health.