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Healthcare in your pocket

Mobile internet has changed the way we live and work. Millions of people around the world can now read and answer emails and manage their banking through internet-enabled mobile phones.

But have we reached the position yet where we can manage our health on the move?

According to the World Bank, around three-quarters of the global population now has access to mobile technology. But while the potential benefits of the technology are boundless, in healthcare they are only just starting to be realised.

It started with SMS

The first aspect of mobile technology to be embraced by healthcare providers was short messaging, better known as SMS or text messaging. This made it easy to contact patients at relatively low cost, enabling them to schedule or send reminders about appointments. As mobile phone reach has increased worldwide so has the use and scope of SMS in healthcare – a good example being our SMS-based anti-counterfeiting programme in Africa, where the jump to mobile internet sidestepped the use of desktop PCs common in most other parts of the world.

Mobile apps

It has taken longer for the myriad of possibilities presented by applications – or apps – to be harnessed, but the wheels are now well and truly in motion. ‘Medical’ apps – aimed at both patients and healthcare professionals - are among the fastest-growing categories in app stores.

Our own app library is patient-focused, with 37 apps currently available across Europe, the Americas, Asia and other emerging markets.

Managing asthma with an app

Our most successful app - in terms of reach, take-up and ratings – is MyAsthma. Developed with advice from asthma experts in the UK, (and recently voted as one of the top 50 healthcare apps in Spain), MyAsthma is a free app providing useful tips, practical advice and special monitoring tools to help patients control and manage their asthma. This includes the Asthma Control TestTM , a simple five-step questionnaire that helps measure the patient’s level of asthma control, and helps doctors determine the level of treatment required.

Asthma is a condition that can worsen at any moment, so the ability for a person to assess and record their level of asthma control on the move is important.

 

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Other features of the MyAsthma app include:

  • updated information on local weather, temperature, pollen and pollution
  • handy personalised reminders and tips sent directly to the mobile device
  • tailored information about how to identify and manage asthma triggers
  • tips on travelling with asthma
  • customised lifestyle tips and information on treatments

MyAsthma is currently available in over 20 countries, including France, the Netherlands, Hungary, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Australia, Poland and Norway, and there are plans for further launches this year.

The future

It certainly seems that we could be at the start of a new way of managing our health, with the growth of apps allowing us to manage our health on the move. Potentially, apps could also improve access to healthcare for patients in countries where healthcare infrastructure is lacking. Clearly, mobile phone technology has a significant part to play in this digital healthcare revolution.