The traditional healthcare picture is like this, a patient consulting a clinic or a hospital for a chief complaint. The patient is interviewed for a complete history and thoroughly examined. Laboratory examination is then requested to aid in the diagnosis and in management. Traditional medicine revolves primarily in a medical facility where patient and doctor meet and communicate. However, in some settings, particularly in remote areas, going to health facilities like a hospital is not possible. Thus, technology plays a big role in this situation. Like telehealth, Mobile health or MHealth is medicine and technology combined.
In a study in the Philippine communication, there are 119 million mobile connections and 41 millions active mobile social users. This proves that Filipinos are well connected in the Internet. This should be taken advantage of by the Department of Health and Department of Science and Technology, to use mobile phones as an arm of medical practice. At present, there are a huge number of mobile applications in different medical and paramedical specialties but I believe, their potentials are not realized. Majority of these applications are US-based and the number of applications developed for Filipino users is lesser. Personally, I have 8 health related mobile applications installed in my mobile phone, excluding Google and its sub-applications. Many legitimate medical institutions have there on applications like Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medicine, and even journal publications like JAMA, ACOG etc…
So how can mobile applications be useful in healthcare? These are some benefits of mobile applications:
- can be used as point-of-care devices
- function in remote locations
- carried and used at any time
- a platform for collecting and communicating information via short message service (SMS) (http://www.frontlinesms.com)
- it can be used as victim locator in calamities for rescues
- it empowers and educates patients and relatives suffering from different conditions. (Mayo Clinic, CDC Guidelines)
- electronic medical records and personal medical records
- Patient reminders during disease management (e.g hypertension, weight and Diabetes management)
These are just some of benefits of mobile applications in healthcare. Although, MHealth has fast evolved in the practice of medicine, I cannot emphasize enough that these are just an adjunct to the traditional medicine. These can only be used after a physician has done proper assessment of the patient’s condition.
An idea of mobile application, that I think will be my future thesis for this Master’s degree is a doctor locator, entitled, DOKTOR KO HANAP KO!. A GPS-enabled doctor locator that primarily helps patients locate a specialist nearest to him/her. The application has different modules depending on subspecialities. The application only includes all doctors that are board certified by specialty and subspecialty societies. As a specialist (gynecologic oncologist), I see cancer patients from different parts of the country in my clinic operated by a non-trained doctor. These patients most of the time is not aware of such subspecialty. Cancer management is particularly tricky in a sense that error in management has a big impact on patient’s survival. It has been proven in studies that cancer patients managed by oncologists from the start of treatment have better prognosis than that of patients initially managed by a non-oncologists. Other services of this application is generalist to specialist referral system, disease information for patients’ education and messaging system for better communication between doctor and patient.