Doctors now Using Cell Phones for Better Health
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14 July 2010
With nagging text messages or more customised two–way interactions, US researchers are trying to harness the power of cell phones to help fight chronic diseases.
“I call it medical minutes,” says Richard Katz of George Washington University Hospital. He is testing if diabetics might better control their blood sugar by tracking their disease using Internetconnected phones. Consider Tyrone Harvey, who learned he had diabetes seven years ago and has struggled to lower his blood sugar ever since. In May, through a study Katz began, Harvey received a Web–based personal health record that he clicks onto using his phone, to record his daily blood sugar.
The trend is called mobile health or mHealth. If you’re a smartphone user, you’ve probably seen lots of apps that claim to help your health or fitness goals– using your phone like a pedometer or an alarm clock to signal when it is time to take your medicine. Katz and other researchers are going a step further, testing whether more personalised phone–based programs can link patients’ own care with their doctors’ disease–management efforts in ways that might provide lasting health improvement.
“Mobile phones provide that opportunity for persons to get the feedback they need when they need it,” explains Charlene Quinn from the University of Maryland, who is testing a competing phone diabetes system.
Do these kinds of technologies work? There’s some short–term evidence, although no one knows if people stick with it once the novelty wears:
Researchers at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Centre found episodes of rejection dropped when they texted take–your–medicine reminders to 41 pediatric liver transplant recipients, adding another text nag to the parent if teen patients didn’t quickly respond that they’d taken their dose.