Apps can help to prevent and manage illness, by tracking signals of developing health issues

By Monica Ireland and Andi Jarvis, Row 1

Mobile health technology, including apps on phones or other mobile devices, allows individuals to manage their health by monitoring health signals.

This technology complements current healthcare systems, allowing people to access to healthcare information from their homes to keep people aware of how to remain healthy and prevent illness.

Kenyon Crowley, the deputy director of the business school's Center for Health Information and Decision Systems, is particularly excited by the concept. Having seen family members suffer from preventable diseases, he acknowledges the potential of apps to keep people informed.

"It supports you outside of your doctor's office," Crowley said.

Phone apps can help people to notice a health issue before it becomes a problem, by tracking health signals. 

By tracking certain health signals, mobile health technology can assist a primary doctor to complete evaluation without having to refer to a specialist for review.

This allows them to notice certain health issues much earlier than they otherwise might not, therefore helping to prevent illnesses before they become a serious health issue.

For example, it may help to recognise high blood pressure which can be easily treated, before it becomes too late and leads to a heart attack or stroke.

"There are certain signals that happen before an event," Crowley said. "Using mobile tech could potentially prevent things from getting worse, cut down on emergency room visits and treatments."

Phone apps can help people to manage their chronic illnesses on their own by motivating patients to complete their treatment. 

Treatment for chronic illnesses such as diabetes relies on patients consistently recording their glucose levels and food intake.

These behaviours can be repetitive and tiresome but apps can help to remind and motivate people to keep going.

"Most chronic diseases have a strong behavioral component," Crowley said. "Those type of things could be motivated and supported."

On such example is Vasoptic Medical Inc. This is a diabetic monitor which allows people to record glucose levels, food intake and exercise according to CEO Jason Brooke.

One in 10 Americans are already using health tracking apps. 

Young people in particular are already using these mobile health apps, which is why Kenyon Crowley sees potential at the University of Maryland.

In fact Brooke's company mentioned above, will begin testing its apps on people through the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore soon.

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