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article imageMobile devices & gamification continue to advance healthcare

By Jessica Oaks     Oct 19, 2015 in Technology
Adoption of new technologies used to happen slowly in the healthcare space but the pace is speeding up. Here are just some of the advancements in tech that are driving big changes in healthcare!
Adoption of new technologies used to happen slowly in the healthcare space but the pace is speeding up. Whereas once providers wouldn't have been able to make assumptions about the technology their patients had access to, chances are good that most patients in the US have a smartphone – possibly even phones boasting some of the best mobile processors from companies like Snapdragon. With all that power in patients' own pockets, providers are exploring new ways to give people at every stage of life more control over their own wellness. Here are just some of the advancements in tech that are driving big changes in healthcare:
Cloud Storage
Not that long ago providers were hesitant to adopt electronic health record systems because of privacy and security concerns, as well as infrastructure issues. As recently as 2009, only 16% of US hospitals were using them. But there is evidence to suggest that EHRs can deliver better healthcare outcomes because they reduce errors by making it easier for doctors, specialists, hospitals and pharmacies to deliver integrated, trackable collaborative care. Cloud storage lets even the smallest providers store and share medical records, which in turn lets patients take greater ownership of their health. Patient portals let anyone with a computer, tablet or smartphone access their own medical records and even ask providers questions. Medical Economics reports that giving people access to their own records improves both quality of care and patient satisfaction.
Gaming
Games can do more than keep people entertained in the waiting room. The Games for Health Project is exploring the potential of games in healthcare in five areas: mental health, patient engagement, fitness, rehabilitation, and provider training. Games have already been shown to improve a person's ability to learn, to offset or reverse memory loss and even build new brain matter. These findings are driving the development of real apps, like a game created by Children's National Health System in the District of Columbia to help children with sickle cell disease combat memory loss and the Hospital for Sick Children's Pain Squad app that gives pediatric cancer patients a lift during daily pain tracking.
Wearables
While wearables like Apple's iWatch make headlines and FitBit enthusiasts abound, there are whole categories of wearables that may be less flashy but are much more useful. Home monitoring devices can track patients' vital signs, movements (or falls), prescription compliance and blood sugar, and then report that data to care providers in real time. A Berg Insight report noted that 3 million patients worldwide were using home monitoring as of last year, with that number expected to rise to almost 20 million by 2018. These devices help the sick and the elderly stay independent longer, even when they don't have loved ones living nearby.
Mobile Devices
Earlier this year, Apple and IBM committed to giving 5 million iPads to seniors in Japan over a five year period and there are other emerging initiatives aimed at putting mobile devices into the hands of the elderly. The goal of these is to improve both the health and quality of life of recipients. Tablets can give them a way to keep in touch with far away loved ones and (for the home bound) the outside world, remind them to take medications and provide a way for seniors to access some of the brain training mobile games mentioned above. The key issue is ensuring that new technology also comes with guidance so recipients know how to do more than access email and Facebook.
Currently many of the specialized healthcare apps and technological advancements are still being tested. But anyone inspired to use technology to improve their health can find games and tech that turn smartphones and tablets into tools for maximizing health and wellness at any age.
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