Some fear mobile healthcare could replace the need for doctors, in some cases, but according to Patricia Mechael, executive director of the mHealth Alliance, mHealth will only help doctors make better decisions. It won't replace them.
"A lot of the time, doctors fear mobile healthcare will make their care redundant, but this won't be the case," Mechael says. "Their role will change and be much more systematically refined. They will be dealing more with acute cases than with the routine types."
Mobile healthcare devices will be able to do preventative work and diagnostics, she says. The provision of human support for treatment will focus on moments where it's absolutely needed from a skilled health worker.
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Mechael sees mHealth getting to a place where "it's just going to become part and parcel of how people interact with the health system, or at least that's my dream."
Within the near future, Mechael says, "we will all likely be interacting with the health system through a mobile device of some sort, whether from a positive perspective -- such as fitness and well-being -- or to manage some sort of chronic health condition."
Mechael anticipates an increasing use of mechanisms for smartphones, including sensor technology, apps, the wearing of remote sensors and the use of biometrics. There are some types of remote sensor apps available already.
"We are just getting started with what's going to be possible through mobile technology, and it's really exciting," she says.
Mobile health is going to put individuals in greater control of their own health. The consumer will have more self-management abilities when it comes to their healthcare, and can course correct as needed. In addition, patients will have a more targeted interaction with the health system, where and when it's needed, Mechael adds.
When patients who once had to trek to the doctor for follow-up visits can have follow-up visits with remote sensors, this will have cost implications for healthcare, she says. "To me, this is really where mobile technology can be disruptive, and can be a game changer in a way we haven't seen before."