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Personal apps: a new healthcare frontier

In the decades since hospitals and doctors’ offices became the traditional way to receive medical treatment, little has changed regarding the way personal health data is managed. Processes remain heavily paper-based, and data about a person’s health and wellbeing is often spread throughout different locations depending on where the consultation occurred.

More recently, the arrival of smart devices—from tablets to wrist bands—have prompted a revolution in the amount of health-related data a person can collect about themselves. This has significant implications for health records and for the CIOs tasked with managing the data. For doctors, the ability to use personal devices for health applications creates the possibility for better long-term care without the travel demands involved in hospital visits.

There’s an app (and data) for that ailment

There are now hundreds of health-related apps available on smart devices, and the giants of the industry—Apple, Google, and Samsung—are all promoting the benefits of their health platforms and apps.

Apps can measure:

  • Heart rate
  • Steps and distance walked
  • Photo recognition of skin conditions
  • Blood pressure

There is also research being conducted for a device that uses a smartphone for blood tests. All data for these apps can be sent to a doctor for an assessment and ultimately for a diagnosis. The challenge for health IT is the potential explosion of data from literally millions of devices capable of measuring all types of properties.

e-health integration

Traditional health practices have their own set of challenges with data integration, which is made more difficult by the various forms health information takes—from handwritten notes to outputs from MRI machines. Public health apps and devices will add to this challenge significantly and in several new ways.

With enough data from a variety of health devices, the opportunity to correlate different trends for long-term research also exists. The concept of a “field trial” is taken to a new level with millions of people using devices for health and activity tracking.

The task for CIOs

CIOs should investigate:

  • The data formats health apps use
  • Which services they rely on
  • Which standards are compatible with health record information standards they are familiar with

Despite the data explosion, apps do present an opportunity for health IT professionals to be innovative in the way they facilitate information sharing with clinicians who can then offer timely and more informed advice to patients.

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