April 11, 2014

Is Technology the Way to Health?

Are you a fan of mobile apps? Do you feel the need to have the latest gadget? Admittedly, I do not and I will try to bring some points out that may help your thinking about your decisions.

I am not the only one interested in this. Dr. Leslie Kernisan who blogs here and here writes about devices and apps and how most are not helpful. The blog that started my thinking is this one by Jane Sarasohn Kahn on Center for Advancing Health. She attended the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Her main emphasis is on the fashion and function of the apps and wearable devices. This is not what I am looking for and I am more interested in function and not fashion.

I would like to add another doctor that blogs about mobile health apps and that would be Dr. David Lee Scher who blogs here. His blogs are on my reading list and often have some points in common with Dr. Kernisan. Why am I pointing out the different blogs? I think anyone interested in mobile health apps needs to have sources to help them make decisions.

The following are a few of the things I look for in mobile health devices and mobile health apps:

#1. Interoperability Presently there are very few that operate with another device or app. This is the biggest weakness of devices and apps. Most companies are financially competitive and will not share protocols or allow other devices or apps to capture data from their devices.

This stops me from purchasing devices or apps. I make enough entry mistakes with numbers that I refuse to own a device or app that does not operate with another. Some can call it being lazy, but with the errors I can make, I would not want this error to go to a doctor.

Yes, I must record the blood glucose readings from my meter and enter the data on paper, but I use extra care. Now that I have the program for pulling the data from the meter to my computer, that is no longer a concern.

#2. Is the device or app immune to being hacked? After learning about the activities of NSA, what happened to customers of Target, and other retailers, this is a concern for me. I don't need my data from mobile health devices and apps subject to other people's use. It is bad enough that the computer systems of doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies are hacked on a continuous basis.

#3. Is the design clunky and difficult to use? With the sleek and usable designs in other devices, even if you don't care about fashion, everyday use must be satisfied and if the device or app does not allow for efficient use, it will end up on a shelf or in a drawer not being used.

#4. Does the device or app help solve a problem or provide a solution? Technologies do not operate in a vacuum. Most mobile health technologies involve education and some knowledge. Make a device or app too complicated for use and it won't be used.

#5. Will insurance provide assistance with the cost of the device or app? I don't know what the new policies obtained for 2014 and later will cover, but before the start of 2014, some insurance companies were reimbursing partial costs of some devices, especially those the doctors were prescribing even if they were available without prescription.

The technologies of today, may be the microchips of the future. I can believe this as these would require microchip readers that could retrieve the data when held in close proximity to the microchip. Then we would need to worry about who had readers for the microchip. Technology provides all sorts of theories for concern and some for amusement.

Technology may be the future and could help in the path to better health if utilized properly and the devices and apps start working together for better utilization.

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