For two-thirds of Americans, smartphones provide everything from directions to the nearest gas station to memories captured in photographic form. As ownership of these devices continues to grow, there is no denying their effect on our lives and culture. One of the most monumental revolutions they’ve caused has been in a field traditionally wary of new trends: healthcare. As far back as 2011, 93% of physicians have used some form of mobile technology daily, and 80% use smartphones or tablets to directly influence patient care. Additionally, 32% of consumers in 2015 had at least one health app on their mobile device. Though mobile technology in healthcare has both benefits and dangers, this article highlights the positives. Following are some of the most significant transformations:
Increased Engagement and Awareness:
Digital innovations now make it possible for patients to do everything from access medical records to checking their vitals on their portable devices. For almost every healthcare need, there is now an app, ranging from drug dose calculators to applications allowing diabetics to broadcast their glucose number for relatives and doctors to see at any time. As cardiologist Eric Topol says, “We can remotely and continuously monitor each heart beat, moment-to-moment blood pressure readings, the rate and depth of breathing, body temperature, oxygen concentration in the blood, glucose, brain waves, activity, mood,” all through programs adapted for our phones. Simply by owning a smartphone, patients can easily access affordable apps that analyze data and issue customized reports, helping them to manage their lifestyle more independently and effectively.
Ease and Speed for Physicians:
For physicians, smartphones and tablets provide portable, user-friendly devices that easily integrate into their workflow. Mobile devices allow doctors quick and easy access to patient records, blood test results, glucose readings, and medical images. With tasks synched and streamlined, health care professionals have more time to focus on patient care, and less time to spend behind a desk performing administrative duties. Additionally, mobile devices can transform patient consultations; instead of hearing test results, patients can be provided a visual representation of their diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan by their physician, easing concern and creating a relationship of trust.
Patient-Provider Dialogue Increased:
Finally, mobile devices have lead to alternative ways of communicating, increasing the opportunities for patient-provider dialogue. No longer limited to face-to-face encounters, healthcare delivery can take place over smartphones that merge telehealth with physiological tracking and lifestyle management apps. Questions can be asked and answered, photos and videos can be exchanged, and everyone can track progress at their own convenience, including those with limited transportation or living in a remote location. Finally, such devices can allow location awareness to monitor elderly patients, meaning the provider will know immediately if an emergency arises and action needs to be taken.
As the aforementioned Dr. Topol has said, “Medicine is entering an age of democratization,” and certainly that has its triumphs. However, the next post will focus on the more disadvantageous side of this shift, and the dangers it can pose.
 Smith, Aaron, “U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015,” Pew Research Center, April 1, 2015, http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/01/us-smartphone-use-in-2015/
 Topol, Eric, “How Technology is Transforming Health Care,” U.S. News, July 12, 2013, http://health.usnews.com/health-news/hospital-of-tomorrow/articles/2013/07/12/how-technology-is-transforming-health-care
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