Mobile Technology in Nowadays Medical Practice: Is It a Safe Path?

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Isabela Lucchesi Rangel and Ms. Ana Beatriz Venturini Santos, two fourth year medical students at UniCesumar in Maringá, Brazil. They are affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


In 1993, the very first Smartphone “The Simon” from IBM was launched. By this time, no doctor could ever imagine how this invention would impact medical profession forever. Nowadays, there’s an exponential growth of mobile health (or just mHealth) – defined as “medical and public health practice supported by mobile devices” – that has changed health care systems in infinite ways.

It is well known in the medical environment that the effectiveness of a treatment depends as much on the professional’s commitment as on the patient’s. And it is in this matter that mHealth can be seen as an innovation in the doctor-patient relationship, as well as in the monitoring of chronic diseases. Patients can get in touch with applications that help them to communicate with healthcare providers, to access disease information or to purchase health habits and abandon the bad ones. There are also technologies that allow their mobiles to control medical devices (e. g. controlling the delivery of insulin on an insulin pump), or even transform it into one (e. g. a glucose meter). Finally, some apps can provide patients diagnosis or treatment recommendations, almost playing a doctor´s role.

When it comes to doctors, they can have quick access to information such as medical literature, disease or drug references and medical calculators. They can access and maintain recordings through electronic health records (EHRs), image accessing and electronic prescribing. Additionally, mHealth can help them to promote a better clinical decision-making, with clinical decision support systems, diagnosis and differential diagnosis aids, and treatment guidelines.  Mobile devices have also flexibilized their communication: doctors can assist each other by texting and calling. Other areas improved by this technology are medical education and training, as seen during COVID-19 pandemic.

However, research has shown that many medical applications have flaws that could be harmful to healthcare systems. Some of them don’t cite the references used, while others use references that haven´t been updated over time. In addition, there are devices with no physicians involved in the process of creation, with low diagnostic accuracy, fail mechanisms or even false promises. Another point to be considered is that many patients may struggle accessing health services on cellphones, especially elderly patients and many of the low socioeconomic status population, which is particularly common in third world countries. At last, it’s good to remember that the use of technology may deteriorate doctor-patient relashionship if done in an unbalanced way.

In the light of the above mentioned, it can be concluded that mHealth is essential to medicine evolution. Before using it, doctors must certificate its efficacy and search for reliable information about such applications, or even a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Being aware of what patients are using and guide them through it can also be useful. Finally, doctors should never forget that behind their hands using the mobile device, there is a hand of a person expecting an authentic and secure relationship with them – the patient’s one.

REFERENCES:

AUNGST, T. D.  et al. How to identify, assess and utilise mobile medical applications in clinical practice. Int J Clin Pract, v. 68, n. 2, p. 155-62, Feb 2014.

BOULOS, M. N. K.  et al. Mobile medical and health apps: state of the art, concerns, regulatory control and certification. Online journal of public health informatics, v. 5, n. 3, p. 229-229,  2014.

GAN, S. K.-E.  et al. An overview of clinically and healthcare related apps in Google and Apple app stores: connecting patients, drugs, and clinicians. Scientific Phone Apps and Mobile Devices, v. 2, 12/01 2016.

MOSA, A. S. M.; YOO, I.; SHEETS, L. A systematic review of healthcare applications for smartphones. BMC medical informatics and decision making, v. 12, p. 67-67,  2012.

RYU, S. Book Review: mHealth: New Horizons for Health through Mobile Technologies: Based on the Findings of the Second Global Survey on eHealth (Global Observatory for eHealth Series, Volume 3). Healthcare Informatics Research, v. 18, n. 3, p. 231-233,  2012.

SARWAR, M.; SOOMRO, T. Impact of Smartphone’s on Society. European Journal of Scientific Research, v. 98, 02/01 2013.

VENTOLA, C. L. Mobile devices and apps for health care professionals: uses and benefits. P & T : a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management, v. 39, n. 5, p. 356-364,  2014.

About the author

Isabela Lucchesi Rangel is a fourth year medical student resident in Maringá. She is proud to be the local IFMSA Brazil coordinator LC UniCesumar!

Ana Beatriz Venturini Santos is 20 years old and courses the fourth year of medicine school at UniCesumar in Maringá, Brazil. She is a member of the academic leagues of Endocrinology and Metabology (LAEMMA), Pediatrics (LAPEM) and Medical Clinic (LACMMA) of Maringá.

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Comments

  1. newswatchtv says:

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