mHealth – does it have an empowering effect on patients?
With information becoming increasingly accessible, it is now easier for one to educate themselves by doing a quick search on the Internet. This has also inevitably cultivated a behaviour amongst people – to actively source for solutions to the problems they face, including health concerns.
Informed patients have as a result, started to demand for more transparency and autonomy over their health choices. This has led the health industry to innovate their services to satisfy these demands and at the same time, help medical practitioners improve their productivity and efficiency.
However, informed patients would also need to be empowered to take ownership of their own health and well-being in order to take full advantage of any innovation.
What is patient empowerment and its significance?
Patient empowerment is an inclusive practice that encourages patients to be self-reliant and active in managing their health.
This is to help them develop self-awareness, self-care and promote the understanding that they can be equal partners with their healthcare providers in their healthcare decisions. It puts patients at the heart of health services so that they are able to derive the maximum benefits from it.
The reality is that the global healthcare cost is rising. And there has been a constant lack of doctors and dietitians to provide any intensive follow-up on diet or lifestyle advice that patients need.
Thus, the medical devices industry is looking to alleviate this by providing tools such as mobile health (mHealth) to patients.
What is mHealth?
“Global Observatory for eHealth (GOe) defined mHealth as medical and public health practice supported by mobile devices, such as mobile phones, patient monitoring devices, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and other wireless devices.” – World Health Organisation
Particularly in Singapore where the city state has a high smartphone penetration rate alongside a tech-savvy population, mHealth has been able to play a big part in encouraging self-reliance within health care.
How does mHealth empower?
mHealth functions as a tool to improve engagement between providers and patients. This provides patients with an active voice by encouraging them to better communicate with their doctors, limiting the chances of misdiagnosis.
In Singapore, chronic diseases are on the rise and it has become a concern for the industry. However, experts have raised that mHealth apps can motivate patients to take charge of their health and medical conditions. With the ease of access to medical information through the apps, and the ability to access the information in real-time, this encourages patients to self-monitor their conditions on-the-go. Ultimately, this can help to alleviate the problem of chronic diseases.
In addition, with high smartphone penetration in Singapore, it is without a doubt that mHealth apps have been widely used amongst youths and working adults.
In order to effectively influence behaviours such as self-management, awareness, and goal setting, mHealth apps need to include four major features:
- Ease of use
Positive reinforcement to both patients and medical practitioners
Social support and interactivity
Provide support with assisted intervention
With all four areas in place, the app is more likely to produce positive behavioural changes and clinical improvements. Providers that invest in such digital tools and develop strategies to adapt to consumers’ expectations would thus be able to close the gap between what patients demand, and what they deliver.
Reported by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, there are now more than 165,000 health and medical apps available in the market in Singapore. Listed below are a few apps that are currently reigning the market.
Top 8 mobile health apps you might be interested to check out:
Breatherite (Mundipharma) – Employs augmented reality technology to address errors in use of inhalers amongst Asthma sufferers
Zero Bleeds (Shire) – Allows doctors to monitor haemophilia patients’ bleed and infusion logs and a platform for patients to manage treatment logs
Health Buddy (SingHealth) – Provides you with quick access to healthy living tips & advice, and medical services, bringing you towards a better health and well being
- Cardiatrics – Digital platform that designs a lifestyle plan for patients based on their health and lifestyle concerns, particularly for those who are at risk of chronic illnesses < > – Skip queues at the clinic and use the app to 'see' the doctor
- PX Plate – Your digital health dietician that prescribes you a healthier meal choice
- RingMD – Skip queues at the clinic and use the app to 'see' the doctor
- ConnectedHealth – Utilises a set of Bluetooth-connected devices to monitor health data like blood pressure, weight, blood glucose, pulse, and more. That data is subsequently transferred to your smartphone, which is then transmitted to a patient’s caregivers.
- Healint – An emergency alert app for people vulnerable to strokes.
Want to find out more?
The benefits of mobile health apps can only be reaped if there are sufficient awareness and willingness to engage with apps. It is also dependent on the level of transparency of information provided to patients, and how they internalise that information to make the right decisions for their health. Educating the older generation will be key as well to ensure that they are not left behind.
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