Bikes and mobile phones for health
A few days before the Gran Via site of Fira de Barcelona hosted the congress of the EASD, European Association for the Study of Diabetes, between the 24th and 27th September, the participants in the mHealth Grand Tour arrived in the city. This is a non-competitive cycling event that started on the 5th and covered the 2,100 kilometres separating Brussels and Barcelona in two weeks.
The purpose of this remarkable journey, which was promoted by the International Diabetes Federation and GSMA, the association that represents the interests of the mobile communications industry and organizer of the Mobile World Congress, and which enjoyed the support of the European Commission and technical assistance from Newscastle University, was to highlight the value of research and how mobile applications and devices can help people to control diabetes and its related conditions, making it possible for them to enjoy a more active lifestyle.
Jeanine Vos: “Remote diagnosis and prevention programs”
The GSMA has led a number of mhealth initiatives that have taken off around the world, showcasing the potential health benefits that mobile technologies can offer. This is the view of Jeanine Vos, mhealth director of GSMA: “The opportunities in a sector like mhealth are enormous. Mobile technologies can go so much further than a simple smartphone application: operators can use their networks to offer health services to the public, from a remote diagnosis to the implementation of prevention programs”.
Jeanine Vos reminds us that “Europe has more than 55 million diabetes patients, and many more with the condition that have not yet been diagnosed. It is vital for these chronic patients and their families that aspects of their lives such as diet, exercise and medication are carefully monitored.”
Mobile technologies can play an important role in preventing diabetes, and in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. “By monitoring the relevant indicators with their smartphones,” Vos explains “including the blood-sugar level, blood pressure, levels of exercise, diet and medication, pulse and weight, our mobiles can contribute to better treatment of the disease in the early stages and help to prevent the complications associated with diabetes. Besides, it also fosters better information sharing among the medical professionals involved.
Savings of 9,900 million
A report by GSMA and Pricewaterhousecoopers estimates that mobile technology can provide savings of up to 9,900 million euros in health spending in EU countries in 2017. “This saving will come from intensive use of the mobile pone to promote a healthy lifestyle for the public,” explains the director of mHealth for GSMA, “or from better diagnoses and treatment of certain conditions thanks to the phone, or from the reduction in hospital admissions that will occur when people are better equipped to manage their health”.
More than 1000 projects worldwide
The GSMA leads mhealth initiatives across the world, and has registered over 1,000 projects of this type. Beyond the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of chronic illnesses, there are many ways in which mobile technology can be applied in healthcare.
For example, in Brazil, SanaMobile has developed a medical device that can be connected to a mobile phone to detect cataracts or other eye conditions for use in remote areas where medical care is very limited. In the Philippines, the company Smart has developed an electronic health registration system which will enable social workers to monitor the health of their neighbours. In Greece, Vodafone has introduced mobile solutions to connect medical specialists with general practitioners in the remote villages of the islands. There are many possibilities and we look forward to fascinating new services emerging in the coming years.