January 16, 2013

Take two apps a day and see how you feel in a week – the rise of ehealth

Written By Martin Sandhu

Electronic health (ehealth) technology and associated apps were the big hit at last weeks Consumer Electronics Show (CES) across the pond. Each year one thing at CES comes out on top, with every businessman and his brother looking to lead the market, and for 2013 it looks like wearable fitness  devices will be it.

Technology is poised to shape the health care industry, starting in the home. From ear phones that monitor your heart rate to forks that follow your every bite, ehealth is allowing consumers to monitor and record their health in great detail via their smartphone.

Many gym bunnies and fitness fanatics already use GPS tracking apps, which monitor how far the user has travelled, the incline and decline of the route and how fast they ran, walked, cycled and even skied, as well as estimating the total number of calories burned. More sophisticated, paid for apps provide what is essentially a personal trainer in your pocket – by monitoring weight, body mass index, food and water intake and even demonstrating exercises tailored to your needs.

But the technology is rapidly moving on from simply fitness and diet apps, creating a multi-million pound market. Many of the products showcased at CES were based on a gadget with smartphone connectivity, such as heart rate monitors or technology aimed specifically at parents who want to monitor their children’s health. The technology for health professionals themselves is taking leaps forward too. Research during 2012 found that nearly 20% of European doctors use an iPad or other tablet computer in their daily professional life and in some countries that figure is even higher.

Forks which record what you eat

Some apps simply look to move offline processes online, such as patient records and prescriptions, whilst others are embracing all that technology is capable of. Certainly in the US, one company has been trailing technology which allows doctors to ‘prescribe’ their patients an app! Many of these apps can be used by the patient on a regular basis to monitor their condition, which provides vital information to doctors at their next appointment, without relying on a patients memory. Some are medication reminders, which can be programmed to the specifics of a user, in an attempt to combat a huge issue for the healthcare industry.

The technology has already moved beyond simple apps though, with iPhone compatible blood glucose level monitors and mobile device powered remote monitoring systems for critically ill patients just two examples of the many innovations seen in 2012.

Fitness straps can record medica data in real time

Although the healthcare industry has been one of the slowest to adopt technology, it is rapidly catching up, with 2013 already set to be a landmark year for the sector. In a further boost the European Commission launched the eHealth Action Plan a the end of last year with the aim of encouraging more use of digital healthcare tools across Europe.