First study on mobile technology for chronic disease and its implications for healthcare practice in Ireland

May 18 2016 Posted: 10:36 IST

The Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway has carried out one of the first studies to utilise a ‘person-based approach’ to bring forward the key benefits and barriers involved in developing a ‘mHealth’ technology application for patients with hypertension, that has the potential to support many different chronic diseases.

Results from the study show clear evidence that well-designed mHealth app interventions can effectively change patient health-related behaviour, improve patient knowledge and confidence for self-management of health, and lead to better health outcomes.

The ‘mHealth’ policy brief written by Dr Jane Walsh and Dr Liam Glynn from the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway, found that ‘one size fits all’ apps to promote patient self-management of their own chronic disease are undesirable and that patients would prefer a personalised programme from an app. This would enable patients to set their individual priorities such as medication regimen, desired adherence format, lifestyle changes and goals.

mHealth can play a key role in meeting HSE policy objectives to empower patients to self-manage their health, providing them with better access to personalised information and support for active involvement in self-management and lifestyle change.

Newer technologies such as mobile devices and the internet are omnipresent in modern society. Health related behaviour change, driven by such technologies has grown exponentially in recent years, with downloads for health and lifestyle related mobile applications or ‘apps' expected to exceed €25 billion in 2015 and €50 billion in 2017. This presents a unique opportunity for healthcare providers to harness these technologies to deliver a more efficient service for the prevention of chronic disease.

Mobile technologies and wearable technologies such as technology driven watches, represent the ideal forum to facilitate patient self-management. Among the world’s population of 7 billion there are over 5 billion mobile devices and over 90% of those users have their mobile device nearby 24 hours a day. The use of such devices allow for the provision of ongoing monitoring and support of both individuals and healthcare professionals, whilst improving services by giving patients convenient access to detailed, personalised feedback.

The study found that mobile technology is best ‘prescribed’ by a ‘trusted source’ such as a doctor. A profile of barriers should be identified for each patient, and self-management programmes should be tailored according to individual patient’s needs. The introduction of a new technology or platform for engagement requires concerted efforts to alleviate patient concerns and to create confidence in terms of quality and security. 

Co-author of the mHealth policy brief, Dr Jane Walsh from the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway, said: “Due to the novel nature of the technology, it is best used to provide a neutral space in which patient and healthcare providers can discuss and negotiate a management plan around often challenging issues such as concordance, sub-optimal control and lifestyle change.”

For further information on the Policy Brief visit:



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