Mobile Caregivers

In this week's blog post, we will take you on a journey to the fascinating world of medical apps. Discover how mobile technology increases patient’s life quality, provides people in remote areas with vital medical treatment and supports doctors in making critical decisions every day.

“Should your doctor be following you on twitter?“ This question is raised in a recent blog post about tweets beeing used to asses a person’s physical and mental condition. Now how about taking this initial question some steps further? What if your doctor knew everything about your eating habits, allowing him or her to personalize your Diabetes treatment? What if a caregiver would be able to track your grandmother’s position when she gets lost on her way to the supermarket due to beginning dementia? What if your mobile phone would provide you with instant and reliable information about symptoms of illness, even if the next hospital was 300 miles away? Finally, what if your mobile was able to transform into an instrument for real-time mapping of an epidemic outbreak?

Patients, Doctors, States ... and a Global Phenomenon
Questions like these pop up whenever you take a closer look at a phenomenon commonly referred to as mobile health. Indeed, with mobile penetration around the globe somewhere around six billion connections, the potential of mobile apps in the medical sector is huge. This holds true for doctors and patients as well as for other medical stakeholders, such as states and insurance companies.

From a patient’s point of view, m-Health apps can drastically increase the accessibility and affordability of medical services. This holds true for western countries as well as for so called developing regions, where the next ambulance is often times more than a hundred miles away. Also, mobile phones enable self-care and provide patients with valuable advices, such as how to deal with a life-changing chronic disease.

For doctors and nurses, mobile enhanced patient data can be a great support in decision making – putting diagnosis and therapies on a broader ground. Besides, mobile apps assist medical staff in managing schedules and keeping in touch with patients. Furthermore, mobile apps support states and insurance companies in cutting costs. They allow for stakeholders to place awareness-building initiatives directly in every citizen's pocket. By supporting apps that encourage smokers to quit their habit or teach people about HIV/AIDS prevention, governments can influence public health even before a doctor comes into play.

Finally, mobile apps can be used for the education and on-the-job training of medical students and young doctors. Using latest m-Learning apps, students learn about symptoms and how to treat them on their mobile phones rather than in crowded lecture halls.

WSA-mobile Winners - Medical Apps that Make a Difference
This year’s WSA-mobile winners in the category “m-Health and Environment” reflect these fundamental changes that come along with the mobile revolution. All of them proof that mobile phones can make a valuable contribution in improving the quality of medical services all around the globe.

Empowering cancer patients in their daily lives - Life with cancer
„When I was told that I got cancer, my first thought was: ‘That’s it!’ I was totally shocked and unable to deal with the situation!“. This testimony has been recorded by the Danish Cancer Society that supports cancer patients throughout the country. To support cancer patients in this critical period, the society created an app that assists patients, relatives and caregivers in their daily lives. The app offers on-the-spot help, whenever patients and relatives need more information about a specific cancer, its symptoms and treatment, how to care for cancer patients, what to ask the doctor, where to get help or treatment. Users can access videos on cancer screenings and treatment, create password protected user profiles or enter data. Presentations are customized based on the information provided in the user profile. The app does not remove the anxiety associated with cancer, but it helps to relieve it, making life with cancer more humane.

Saftey and orientation for people with Alzheimer disease – Alz Nav
Developed by the Frauenhofer Institute Portugal, AlzNav's target audience are senior citizens and persons in the initial/pre-stages of dementia. The application aims to improve their autonomy by increasing their sense of safety when going outdoors and, at the same time, easing their caregivers concerns by reassuring them that they will be alerted if the user gets lost and/or needs help. AlzNav distinguishes itself from other solutions by providing a simplified user interface, designed specifically for its target users needs and limitations, and by empowering users to help themselves when needed. If they feel able, AlzNav can navigate them back home; help them call a cab to take them; or simply help them place calls to family members and friends.

Micro-Lessons for medical students – Prognosis: Your Diagnosis
Prognosis: Your Diagnosis, is a smartphone app targeting doctors,medical students and other healthcare professionals. It is a “medical game” that is aimed to make the process of learning medicine fun. It supports users to create a virtual doctor-patient environment to practice processes to treat real life patients via an interactive cartoon style narrative. Prognosis is the first medical application on the iPhone to ‘gamify’ medical education while also promoting serious learning - as it teaches important clinical points required in day to day medical practice.

Tracking EDCs – Hormone Check
Hormone check helps consumers to avoid possibly harmful endocrine disrupters in cosmetics and personal care products. By scanning the barcode on the product with the phone, the consumer is instantly told whether or not the product contains EDCs. The focus is the 17 chemicals that are found on the EU list of EDCs and are allowed in cosmetics. Consumers are also encouraged to report products back to the database. If consumers scan a product and it’s not in the database, they can send information on the product by using a formula on the phone, taking a photo of the ingredient list, documenting the EDCs in the product. Consumer may also share information on EDC products via social media channels.

Personalised Medicine – Social Diabetes
Social Diabetes is a system for the self-management of Diabetes Mellitus Type 1. By utilizing knowledge that diabetic patients have about their own disease and sharing it with others through this app, users can leverage the potential provided by cloudcomputing in order to enhance the quality of life. Factors like food intake and exercise are logged into the system which in turn recommends the insulin dose based on these parameters.  By managing statistical information and data about the patient’s actual behaviour, the Social Diabetes system can make personalized recommendations. The patient can invite their doctor to join the Social Diabetes web, to monitor the patient online. The optimization of patient monitoring by healthcare professionals leads to improvements in healthcare services, while reducing time and costs.

Prevent Burnouts - Positive Technology
Positive Technology is a telehealth tool allowing self-management of stress and enabling mobile-based treatment. Stress is the second most reported work-related health problem, while stress-related conditions caused by work are on the increase and significantly affect an organisation’s bottom line. Reducing work-related stress is not only a moral, but also a legal and business imperative. Research indicates that the use of mobile phones enhances clinical approaches to stress management. Within the context of the Interstress EU project, a mobile app was developed to help people cope with stress. Using an engaging 3D virtual reality island, the user can practice effective relaxation techniques. The Positive Technology app also offers biofeedback training to control heart rate variability, thus helping to counter the physiological changes induced by stress. The biofeedback approach used has two outstanding merits. Firstly, heart rate variability is one of the most effective biofeedback techniques. Secondly, the treatment is situated in a virtual environment, the medium of choice for giving users feedback, by being more intuitive and making learning easy. The biofeedback section of the app exploits progress made in the field of wearable low-cost biosensors to allow effective interventions in daily situations.