• mHealth
  • Medical apps need better UX and UI

    With the ubiquitous use of smartphones today, mobile users have great expectations from their apps: fast loading time, intuitive workflows, ease of use and aesthetic appeal. Digital health and mHealth organisations hoping to compete successfully in this vivid ecosystem, can no longer ignore user experience(UX) and user interface (UI) design as an essential component of their product strategy.

    So, what is UX and UI? 

    UX is the process of researching, developing, and refining all aspects of a user’s interaction with a product to ensure that it is meeting the user’s needs. UI is more cosmetic and takes into consideration the visual interaction with a product, including the colour schemes, the size and colour of a button, the consistency of a theme and so on.  

    Simply put, UX makes apps useful, while UI makes apps beautiful. Together these aspects play an important role in highlighting the value of your product and creating a lasting connection with your users.  They also have a positive impact on the bottom line, by reducing development time, increasing sales and improving customer retention. 

    With over 318 000 health apps across the most popular app stores, the difference between a successful and unsuccessful mHealth app will lie in the quality of its UX and UI.  The importance of good UX and UI cannot be overemphasized.

  • Japan extends healthcare to the home

    Welby My Karute is an innovative app developed by Welby Inc, a Tokyo based IT company to support the management of healthcare. The use of such apps for monitoring patient's lifestyles and chronic diseases is a growing trend in Japan.  Medical institutions using this app rely on the information provided to improve treatment and care and reduce the incidence of healthcare visits.  

    The aim of this app is to encourage patients to keep a record of their lifestyle at home, which is then shared with dieticians, doctors and other medical workers. This serves as a “watcher” as it keeps an eye on the patient without them seeing a doctor. Data such as meal choices, blood pressure, pulse, sleep patterns and whether they take drugs appropriately can be shared with computers at the hospital to inform patient management and disease monitoring. 

    Patients have stated that the app makes it convenient for them as they tend to miss hospital checkups due to having other commitments such as work.  This provides a useful use case for Africa, where patients struggle with similar challenges.  Coupling this app with suitable patient incentives can help patients and clinicians shift healthcare away from being reactive, but rather proactive and preventative.

  • mHealth can improve communication and teamwork

    Good football teams talk constantly during a game to ensure high levels of concentration and performance needed for success are sustained. Effective healthcare teams need to do the equivalent. Anmed Health Medical Center, a 461-bed acute care hospital in Anderson, South Carolina, uses mHealth to achieve effective communications and alerts for hospital teams.

    In 2015, it started to integrate its phone system, nurse call system, patient monitoring alerts, secure texting and EPIC into a unified mHealth service. Other providers, including Philips Healthcare, Voalte and Connexall, are included too. The goal was to bring stakeholders together to improve and streamline connectivity, coordination and clinical workflows. Choosing the right phone was essential for success.  PIVOT smartphones from Spectralink were selected.

    The company has described the initiative in a case study. It has several lessons for Africa’s mHealth strategies. A major benefit’s the capacity to connect quickly with the most appropriate available people as different needs arise. Direct and effective messaging has increased response times, helping to provide more effective and personalised patient care.

    While Africa’s mHealth has priorities for remote communities and healthcare workers, hospital teams need mHealth too. A challenge’s to find an appropriate investment balance within constrained resources.

     

  • Saudi Arabia’s RAH@H aims to improve healthcare quality
      

    Connecting and integrating healthcare resources to improve quality’s a core eHealth goal. In Riyadh, the Remotely Accessible Healthcare at Home (RAH@H) initiative offers a daily, patient centric, connected health model to achieve it. Five themes are integrated: 

    EducatingEmpoweringInfluencingMonitoringTreating. 

    Achieving these depends on RAH@H operating at the centre of a technological hub.

    Available both on Android and IOS, RAH@H uses modern technologies for telemedicine, webinars, and observations from medical devices to serve patients. Healthcare needs of vulnerable communities that don’t have ready access to services. They include pregnant women, especially with complications such as hypertension, gestational diabetes and cardiac conditions.

    Interventions include:

    Improved nutritionPrevention and protection against diseases and illness.

    These aim for outcomes of:

    Better life qualityCreating satisfied and empowered patientsIncreased treatment compliance.

    Based in Riyadh, RAH@H’s project custodian’s the Director General of Prince Naif Bin AbdulAziz Health Research Center at King Saud University in Riyadh. It's concept and technology can have a role in African countries and their vulnerable, underserved communities.

  • Stethee reinvents the stethoscope with AI

    The worlds first Al enabled stethoscope system has been launched by M3DICINE Inc.

    The design itself is revolutionary and operates as easily as the traditional stethoscope. However, it allows users to listen to the lung and heart sounds with a more sophisticated amplification and filtering technology. Heart and respiratory sounds captured are sent via Bluetooth to the Stethee Android or iOS App which enables a wider range of diagnostic capabilities.

    The Stethee system comes in three core products:

    FDA cleared Stethee Pro for medical and healthcare professionalsStethee Vet for veterinarians and animal professionalsStethee Edu developed specifically as an education and research tool

    The technology platform behind the Stethee AI engine , named “Aida” can analyze the heart and lung sounds to build a unique personal biometric signature.  In addition to this, Aida automatically tags geo-location and environment data to each sample in real time.  This offers a completely new dimension of data analytics for public health planning by allowing one to understand what effects environmental factors such as pollution, temperature or humidity have on our heart and lungs.

    Aida also analyzes this encrypted and anonymised data in order to learn and report back quantitative clinically actionable data to vets, doctors and other healthcare professionals. Not only does it identify and analyze heart sounds and respiratory activity but also patterns that may indicate a disease condition. The data is represented in real time in the Stethee App, therefore making it easy to understand vital signs.

    The potential for the Stethee to be used in remote rural areas is quite vast because its relatively easy to use and results can be shared and analyzed promptly by a medical specialist anywhere in the world. This is invaluable to the improvement of patient care, more especially to remote rural areas where access to screening services or a cardiologist is very difficult.

  • Wearable heart rate monitors don’t tick the box

    A cynical insight from Napoleon Bonaparte was “If you wish to be a success in the world, promise everything, deliver nothing.” I doesn’t fit wearable mHealth, where reliable results are everything.

    Research in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) says some wearables have considerable promise, but have to do much better at delivery.

    It sees an important role for wearable sensor technology in clinical research and healthcare. Before it can, it must undergo rigorous evaluation prior to market launch and its performance should be supported by evidences. The researchers found that match between three heart rate monitoring devices and an electrocardiography (ECG) reference was weak.

    Many studies have tried to validate wrist-worn photoplethysmography (PPG) heart rate monitors, but contrasting results question their utility. A big problem’s inadequate methodologies.

    Validation strategies should consider the nature of data provided by both the investigational and reference devices. There must be uniformity in the statistical approach to the analyses too. Investigators should test the technology in user populations and in appropriate settings for the planned uses. Developers, suppliers and scientific communities need robust standards to validate new wearable sensor technology. 

    There’s a lot more to do before wearables can become mainstream clinical devices. The findings and recommendations should be considered be Africa’s health systems as they advance their mHealth strategies and plans.

  • Intermountain Healthcare integrates telehealth and mHealth in a connected care platform

    Information silos are huge obstacles to integrated healthcare. And integrated care is the kind most of us want for ourselves and for our loved ones. It's a key eHealth challenge.

    In a report in Research Information, research platform outfit Dimensions says they’re usually created unintentionally, and are a phenomenon to “escape” from.

    Intermountain Healthcare, based on Salt Lake City, US, seems to be free of these troubles. A report in mHealth Intelligence says it’s integrated 35 different telehealth and mHealth services into Connect Care Pro, a single connected care platform. Objectives are to improve care coordination and keep care in communities, both of which could be good for patients and health systems. It took five years to plan. 

    The services it supports include: 

    Virtual or tele-programmesTelestrokeTelehealth programmes for behavioural healthTelehealth programmes for newborn critical careTelepharmacy serviceseHealth services using connected health devices.

    The legacy was a history of launches of several telehealth and mHealth programs and pilots that didn’t integrate easily. Intermountain sees their integration initiative as the next telehealth phase.

    The initiative has valuable lessons for our African countries' mHealth and telehealth programmes. It makes sense to start constructing equivalent platforms without delay. It’ll be easier and cheaper than waiting until more silos need integrating. Even more important, it’ll bring extra patient and healthcare benefits, sooner, for our patients, our families and ourselves. 

  • GPS tracking finds a role for dementia patients

    Location, location, location’s not just a property agents’ mantra for house hunting and valuations. It’s essential for dementia patients and their health workers and family carers too. Knowing the whereabouts of the patients and loved ones can be supported by GPS. A NHS organisation in Dorset, UK’s testing a tracking device in shoe insoles to know patients’ locations and help to keep them safe.

    It was reported in a BBC Radio 4 programme that alerts are sent to carers’ mobiles when users stray from designated areas. The can be a nursing home yard or garden. The GPS can pinpoint patients precisely to map. When they stray, they can be found, minimising the risk of harm and needing hospital care. 

    Alz Products makes trackers prices at £75 and a £26 monthly fee. They can be transferred to other footwear, so it’s a price per user. 

    A report from the South Central Region of the Dementia Action Alliance South Central Region says there are 670,000 people with dementia in England and 550,000 friends and family acting as their primary carers. Socio-economic costs across healthcare, social care and wider society are estimated at £19b in 2011. It’s more than cancer, heart disease or stroke costs.   

    These kinds of impacts from imaginative innovation offer Africa’s eHealth programmes direct patient and healthcare benefits. They need a significant place in their strategies and plans.

  • Drones are good for your health

    Stuck in in deep marshland in Norfolk, a very rural, flat part of England, or anywhere else, isn’t a good health initiative. Being rescued by a drone is. A report on the BBC website says a 75 year old man was separated from his friends while walking near Titchwell, a particularly wet and soggy part of the county. He was missing for 21 hours, and stuck in a marsh.

    Police used a drone to find him, and it did. He was admitted to hospital and treated for hypothermia. It’s another example of good drone use.

    Without the drone, the outcome could’ve been different. It’s another graphic illustration of the case for drones. Africa’s eHealth strategies for emergency services should have plenty of them.

     

  • mHealth can help to reduce hospital readmissions

    Using mHealth to improve hospital services’s a common theme in Africa’s eHealth strategies and plans. Reducing readmissions’s an important part of these initiatives. A report from MobileSmith says how three mHealth solutions can help. 

    How to Reduce Preventable Readmissions with Healthcare IT describes:

    Efficient mHealth strategies for reducing hospital readmissionsStrategic use cases for prompt implementationSix best practices for cost-effective apps for engaging patient and doctors. 

    Efficient mHealth should provide:

    Relevant discharge communicationFamily and carer engagementImproved medication adherenceChronic disease control.

    The six best practices are: 

    Research and know target patient groupsThink big, start small, act fast, so avoid mHealth that does everything for everybody, so unlikely to be user-friendlyPolish user interfaces and experiencesKeep mHealth freshEstablish secure data exchangesAdopt analytics. 

    Underpinning each of these’s the core goal to empower patients. mHealth’s the bridge that healthcare can leveraging now to empower patients. It can only work with easy-to-use mHealth so patients are encouraged to become more proactive towards their health. These themes need expanding in Africa’s next wave of mHealth strategies and plans. They also need setting alongside high priority patient groups and clinical conditions.