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New iPhone Helps Mobile Health

Apple recently gave their customers a number of reasons to be excited: they announced that two new iPhones were going to be released on September 20th, and showed some of the new features in a keynote speech. Of course there were rumors and leaked photos for months prior to the actual announcement, but now all the juicy details are out. Some of the new features include:

Allied Health
  • A fingerprint scanner to replace the password used to unlock the phone.
  • Upgrades to the built-in camera, including a larger sensor and aperture, for better picture quality.
  • A new operating system, iOS 7, which does away with the skeuomorphic design of past operating systems.
  • A new processor chip, the A7, as well a second processor, the M7, to help with efficiency.

Most people will probably be excited by the first three changes to the iPhone. Doctors, nurses, dietitians, and nutritionists may be a little more excited by the last one. With these processor upgrades the iPhone should be able to compile information from the gyroscope, compass, and accelerometer for use in current and future mobile health applications. This can help mobile health (mHealth) become much more popular and prevalent, and may help reduce the costs of health care globally.

Please pass me another chip

Allied Health World has written before about different health care apps that patients and doctors can use, and also about an app that would help NFL doctors test players' balance to try and better diagnose concussions. mHealth is making dramatic inroads in helping patients and doctors collaborate better on personal health decisions, and by using cloud technology health information can be gathered, stored, and shared between health care professionals, patients, care givers, and family members. The new iPhone may be even better at collecting this information, thanks to the second processor Apple has placed in their new model. In addition to the new A7 processor used for the iPhone 5s, Apple has also added a second processor, the M7. The previous version of the phone used only the A6 processor to help run all the various functions. The M7 chip is powerful enough, with the other technologies existent in the new 5s, that it knows whether a person is walking, running, or driving a car. The 5s utilizes the chip in order to, according to Apple's website, "measure motion data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass" so that "fitness apps that track physical activity can access that data from the M7 coprocessor." All this information is captured by the phone, even when it is in standby mode, to track the movement of a user as they go about their normal day.

What are the benefits of this health care technology?

This new processor can have numerous benefits for health care apps made for the iPhone, such as the Nike+Move, which keeps track of a person's activity. It is a part of the "Nike +" brand and serves as an introduction to the FuelBand wearable technology that also works with the iPhone. It counts the amount of time a person is active, as well as the number of steps they take throughout their day. The app may also encourage people to exercise more by adding the information to the Game Center, provoking competition amongst friends who share their data.

There has been an influx of wearable technology for consumers who want to take more personal responsibility for their health. The Nike+Move app, when it is available for use, may be able to take the place of some of these wearable devices. It may also be a supplement, offering different functionality for users that work in conjunction with other devices to set fitness goals and keep track of the progress made.

mHealth is expanding, proven by a report from Juniper Research that estimates that about 100 million people will track their health through smartphones and other mobile devices. Currently 15 million people use some form of mobile app or device to help them keep track of their health. It can also branch out and be used as an educational service between hospitals and their patients, or even between hospitals and their staff. With many health care professions requiring that people keep up their knowledge by continuing their education through classes, seminars, and other mediums, using these technologies to help with keeping professionals up-to-date on new studies, reports, or updates of best practices can be easier than constantly asking them to attend group meetings or talks in different places.

Mobile health apps and devices may also end up saving money for the health care sector. The Juniper report said that up to $35 billion dollars over the next five years may be saved globally by remotely monitoring patients whenever possible. The author of the report, Andrew Cox, said that "As mobile fitness devices become more widespread, they will pave the way for more critical mHealth services delivered through the smartphone."

Not only can patients make a more personal investment in their health and hospitals save billions, but the global view of mobile health is also astoundingly positive. A 2012 white paper produced by the Groupe Spécial Mobile Association (GSMA) showed that 89 percent of health care practitioners, 75 percent of patients, and 73 percent of consumers feel that "mHealth solutions can convey significant health benefits." For developing countries that don't have a robust health care sector, this can have enormous value. Doctors and nurses operating in these poor countries may not have the same funding as professionals in places like the UK or US, and may need every advantage they can get to help the patients they see.

What's next?

Making sure that mHealth solutions are affordable for the hospitals that plan to use them, and the patients they hope will also use them, is important. Chronic illness is a huge global problem, accounting for 63 percent of worldwide deaths. 366 million people suffer from diabetes, and predictions are that by 2030 one-tenth of adults will have the disease. The World Health Organization estimates that deaths from chronic diseases will increase by 17 percent over the next decade.

Some patients may need help keeping track of their diet, or want to read more about different ways to keep their disease in check. Mobile health apps and devices can help them with this, and with other needs, they may have. With the information easily transferable to different users, doctors can keep more accurate data on their patients' fitness and progress in maintain a healthy lifestyle, all while the health care sector saves money. Hopefully more doctors, nurses, and hospitals utilize this technology.

About the Author:

Jamar Ramos has been writing poetry and fiction for many years, and earned his bachelor's degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. For the last three years, Mr. Ramos switched to producing blog posts for CBSSports.com and writing professionally as an independent contributor for a number of Internet sites. His creative works have been featured in The Bohemian and The San Matean. He now contributes articles for OnlineDegrees.com, OnlineColleges.com, and AlliedHealthWorld.com.