There is growing support for mobile health care — nicknamed “mHealth” to differentiate it from mobile health units — which includes apps for tablets and other mobile devices, such as cell phones. The technologies include advancements in medication management, personal emergency response, and fall prevention.
The growth of the mHealth industry is evidenced by the increase in available mHealth apps and devices, the rising number of companies that produce the technologies, and the amount of money invested from a variety of sources. The Center for Technology and Aging (CTA), based in California, recently announced (PDF) that it will award grants totaling nearly $500,000 to five organizations that can demonstrate the best ways to implement mHealth technologies for older adults with chronic health conditions.
“These technologies can and should be more rapidly adopted by healthcare providers and patients because they reduce the use of ERs and hospitals by older adults, diminish the need for those with chronic illness to move to intensive higher-cost care settings, and lessen the burden on family and professional caregivers,” said David Lindeman, Ph.D., director of the Center for Technology and Aging. The one-year grants are funded by a variety of sources, including The SCAN Foundation, an organization devoted to advancing health care and independence for seniors.
CTA aims to improve the independence of older adults dealing with chronic health care issues by promoting the adoption and diffusion of beneficial technologies. Nearly half of all Americans have at least one chronic health condition, and a quarter of them have multiple chronic conditions. Over 80% of adults over the age of 65 (PDF) have more than one chronic condition.
The five grantee organizations are CalOptima, Family Services Agency of San Francisco, Front Porch Center for Technology Innovation and Wellbeing, HealthInsight, and Sharp HealthCare Foundation. Abstracts of all five of the projects approved for funding can be found on the CTA website (PDF). Some of those projects include cloud-based electronic health record with tablet-based tools, a medication adherence app for smartphones, and remote monitoring systems.
Remote monitoring is a hot topic within mHealth. A report by Juniper Research indicates that remote health-monitoring technologies could save as much as $5.83 billion in health care costs in the next three years, and at least $1.96 billion. In a piece for Reuters Money, health care journalist Matt Stroud partly explains these high figures:
A recent study from Genworth Financial showed that a private room in a New York nursing home this year could cost as much as $119,355 annually. In Massachusetts, it’s $125,925. And in Alaska of all places, it’s $227,760. So people are looking toward technology to manage elder care longer — and keep their older relatives safer — without breaking the bank or resorting to full-time nursing facilities.
Obviously, elder care is not just a concern within the United States. Researchers at a university in Braunschweig, Germany, are testing ways to equip homes with a network of sensors and other electronics that will help the elderly and the infirmed remain independent and stay in their own homes longer. One issue that complicates remaining independent within the home is that one in three adults over the age of 65 falls each year. In 2000, $19 billion was spent on injuries related to falls, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that by 2020, spending could increase to $54.9 billion a year.
A company called Interactive Medical Production recently unveiled its Ustabilize app, which measures a person’s stability in various positions and provides a Web-based platform to track results.
“Good balance is very important to overall health. Most individuals know how much they weigh, but very few have any idea about how well or how poorly they balance,” said Michael T. Muldoon, a physical therapist and founder of Interactive Medical Production.
In partnership with Mayo Clinic, a company called Gaiam has launched a series of apps specifically for arthritis, Type 2 diabetes, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, heart health, insomnia, back pain, menopause, weight loss, and irritable bowel syndrome. Each app offers important information on the specific condition, followed by both conventional and alternative therapy options. An expert will lead users through a series of meditative and restorative activities tailored to each condition, and each app includes an interactive tool that introduces stress management strategies.
In its position paper entitled, “mHealth Technologies: Applications to Benefit Older Adults” (PDF), the CTA writes,
[…] mHealth technologies can help older adults maintain their independence, delay their transition to higher levels of healthcare, improve access to care, and foster patient-centered care that is available anywhere and at anytime. As today’s older adults are more mobile than their predecessors, mobile devices are becoming an increasingly essential tool for an active population.
Source: “Mobile Health Elder Care Apps Get Funding,” InformationWeek, 08/01/11
Source: “Mobile Health IT Benefits Seniors,” NextGov, 08/03/11
Source: “Technology making home living easier for the elderly,” Monsters and Critics, 08/18/11
Source: “Husband & Wife Team Launch App Hoping to Increase Balance and Stability in Senior Citizens,” BostInnovation, 08/08/11
Source: “Gaiam Launches ‘Mayo Clinic Wellness Solutions’ Apps,” Elevated Existence, 08/11/11
Source: “Center For Technology And Aging Awards Mobile Health Grants (PDF),” press release from the Center for Technology and Aging, 07/27/11
Source: “I’ve fallen and I can’t Tweet: New tech solutions to elder care,” Reuters Money, 08/10/11
Source: “mHealthTechnologies: Applications to Benefit Older Adults,” (PDF), draft position paper from the Center for Technology and Aging, March 2011
Image by Quinn Dombrowski, used under its Creative Commons license.