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Mobile health applications

An emerging field within the realm of health and healthcare is that of mobile health (or as it is more commonly known, mHealth). mHealth, as defined by the Center for Connected Health Policy (n.d.) is "health care and public health practice and education supported by mobile communication devices such as cell phones, tablet computers, and PDAs." mHealth is a distinct subcategory within virtual healthcare due to the specific use of mobile devices; because mobile technologies such as smartphones have rapidly increased in prevalence and popularity within the past few years, mHealth applications have also rapidly increased in number and in scope.

The number of mHealth applications available and in development, and the number of topics and illnesses these mHealth applications target, is exponentially increasing. It is beyond the purview of this chapter to list them all (and, in fact, an entire book can be devoted just to mHealth), but here is a sample of the types of services available through the use of mobile technologies in promoting health and healthcare that may be most applicable for older adults:

  • • Use of mobile technologies for the purposes of virtual healthcare (i.e., using a communication application to contact and communicate with a healthcare provider)
  • • Use of mobile technology applications in the management of chronic health issues (e.g., using a diet-tracker and meal-planner app to manage weight, combat obesity, or control diabetes)
  • Emergency response systems app that allows for the user to call for help with the touch of a button in the event of an emergency
  • • Applications that can be used to assist with medication adherence, such as a smartphone app that reminds the user when to take certain pills
  • Mobile learning applications that provide information to the general public on a series of health issues, diseases, and healthcare options
  • Health promotion applications that allow for individuals and communities to organize and combat public health crises (e.g., a community creating an app that educates members on the risk and transmission of HIV-AIDS and provides information on prevention, testing, and treatment)

The advantages of mHealth and, more generally, virtual healthcare are clear: for populations in which travel to a doctor or other healthcare professional is difficult (due to geographic location, inability to drive, lack of alternative transportation methods, and so on), virtual healthcare provides a means for the patient to receive care in the comfort of their own home. Such technologies have been shown to significantly improve clinical care outcomes (for a review, see the American Telemedicine Association [2015]) and therefore can be incredibly advantageous to CCRC residents. These technologies may also be appealing to the CCRC itself, as virtual healthcare has been shown to be a cost-effective alternative to in-person interactions, although the amount of money saved differs based on what applications and devices are being used. Nevertheless, virtual healthcare technologies may be a strong investment for CCRCs to consider because they can help improve the health of residents and potentially save the CCRC money in the long term.

 
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