What is mHealth?
mHealth (or m-health) is short for mobile health, the practice of medicine and health care over mobile devices, tablets, PDAs, and computers. As an industry, the mHealth field has seen exponential growth in recent years thanks to widespread use in developing nations and increasingly accessible mobile technology. Many people are familiar with eHealth, the branch of healthcare that makes use of computers, emails, satellite communications and monitors. mHealth technology performs similar functions, such as obtaining vital signs, delivering information to doctors and allowing remote exams, on tablets, cell phones and other portable devices.
mHealth focuses on obtaining information immediately to diagnose illnesses, track diseases and provide timely information to the public in underserved countries. Mobile health (mHealth) is especially important in remote areas where doctors and nurses may not be present to provide treatment. Doctors and nurses working in these remote areas rely on mHealth for timely information on handling diseases, and can also obtain actionable health information to pass on to others near them. This mobile health technology also speeds training and education relative to health issues to medical students and interns working in remote communities.
At the end of 2014, it is estimated that millions of patients around the world were making use of home monitor services, which were all based on mobile connectivity. These devices are not the same as traditional computer connections or cell phones. They have their own cellular communication systems and fixed modem connections dedicated for their use. As health technology changes, so does our digital health lexicon. For example, if a person looks up a symptom on the Internet using their computer, it isn’t considered as practicing mHealth. Years ago, however, this was a revolutionary healthcare practice, not just an everyday task. Now, programs and devices dedicated specifically to remote health are further advancing what we consider “everyday” technology. Remote care will eventually be considered as commonplace as in-office visits or research at a computer.