Apple’s connected mobile technologies are transforming personal health, from getting in shape to health insurance and medical monitoring and research. I caught up with health-focused iOS app developer Bojan Bostjancic, Azumio CEO, to discuss mobile’s impact on healthcare.
“We continue to believe the smartphone will be the unified tool for monitoring and taking care of the health and livelihood of every human being in future,”Bostjancic explains.
His thoughts broadly reflect prevailing optimism among healthcare professionals who are excited at the potential of mHealth. Experts at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York recently declared themselves “thrilled” at how Apple’s solutions boost asthma research.
Divide and democracy
There are some who fear a digital divide will emerge between those with access to such technologies and those without. Bojan doesn’t see this problem. “Mobile technology is becoming available everywhere, and is an example of advanced technology that is becoming affordable to the broadest population in the history of mankind,” he said.
Rather than a divide between the technologically equipped and those locked out of the new digital future, he predicts that mobile solutions may help advanced economies reduce the impact of preventable disease. In developing economies, such solutions may, “improve disease awareness and education, disease and vaccination control, diagnostic, testing, telemedicine and more,” he said.
I spoke with Bostjancic as Azumio launches the new edition of its all-in-one health and fitness app, Argus. This uses the iPhone’s existing health sensors (and HealthKit) to monitor such things as weight, heart rate, food intake, stress and sleep patterns to provide useful insights into lifestyle habits.
An online community and additional useful tools, including a sleep tracker, support the app. This means that if you leave your iPhone somewhere on your bed while you sleep the device will track your movements in order to assess your sleep patterns. It can also wake you at the optimal time.
The company hopes to extend the remit of the app, he explained. “We are working with Stanford University and UCSF to better understand a user's data and how they behave in order to develop guided plans to prevent chronic diseases.”
The use of mobile devices to help prevent chronic disease is one of the bigger hopes of all involved in mHealth. In the U.S., around 27 percent of the population (86 million souls) have pre-diabetes symptoms with around 10 percent of the U.S. population already diagnosed with the condition. In many cases these conditions are preventable simply by making lifestyle changes.
Bostjancic said: “We are already working on advanced pre-diabetes plans that will help those people get back on track, with the help of our mobile technology and a network of certified educators.”
To display the complex data sets, the app uses a “honeycomb” interface, described as a visually pleasant way to access a full day’s data on a single screen.
Of course, apps like these are only part of the paradigm. Technologists are also looking to harness the power of big data analysis to smartphone-based health monitors.
This is why IBM recently spent $1 billion to acquire a leading provider of medical image handling and processing, Merge Healthcare. The aim there is to develop computers capable of making accurate medical diagnosis from a scan or x-ray. While Azumio’s terms of service do allow for use of anonymized data collected by the app in strictly monitored health research projects, “We do not give or sell user data to anyone,” said Bostjancic, reflecting the utter importance of maintaining patient confidentiality in a connected age.
With implications across healthcare, Bostjancic seems bullish on the future impact of mobile on personal health. Smartphones may “revolutionize the current health care system and completely integrate patients, doctors, hospitals, payers and the health community,” he said.
You can take a look at the Argus health app here.
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