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In a recently published report, “mHealth Technologies: Applications to Benefit Older Adults,” the Center for Technology and Aging discusses how cell phones, smart phones, laptop and tablet computers, and other mobile-enabled devices are now used to help millions of seniors, as well as their physicians and caregivers, in five areas: managing chronic disease, using medications properly, avoiding safety risks, accessing online health information, and staying well.  These technologies will continue to be beneficial for the aging-in-place market.

According to the study, the mHealth technologies market will approach $5 billion by 2014 and more than double by 2020, driven in part by older adults’ rapidly increasing acceptance and use of technology in their lives. The report discusses six critical issues that shape how rapidly mobile health technologies catch on: technology viability, population applicability, health and economic outcomes, workforce relief, stakeholder readiness, and policy and reimbursement issues.

“mHealth changes the traditional delivery of healthcare, allowing for continuous, pervasive healthcare anytime, anywhere,” said David Lindeman, PhD, director of the Center for Technology and Aging. “With mHealth, providers, caregivers, and patients have the opportunity to continuously monitor health conditions and access health information outside of either the physician’s office or the patient’s home. It promotes efficiencies in care-management and improves individual and population health outcomes.”

The report also describes each opportunity area’s current estimated economic or social costs, the potential benefits and savings derived through mHealth technologies, as well as a sampling of specific technology products currently in use. Report highlights include:

  • Chronic disease management technologies provide a range of messaging, monitoring, and interactive communications functions to support interactive care processes, reduce unnecessary resource utilization, and improve care outcomes.
  • Medication adherence technologies have been rapidly expanding and can assist patients and caregivers with obtaining proper medication information, patient education, medication organization, dispensing, dose reminders, and notification when doses are missed.
  • Safety monitoring developers are focusing their attention on mHealth technologies that detect and ultimately prevent falls and wandering by monitoring patients in terms of their location, balance, and gait.
  • Health education technologies promote better communication between older adults, caregivers, and providers through personal health records, online social networks, and access to general health information via the Internet.
  • Wellness technologies include SMS behavior modification programs (e.g. healthy eating), smartphone and tablet apps that track nutrition and calorie intake, support activities (e.g. yoga, smoking cessation), calculate body mass index and disease risk, and mobile-enabled monitoring devices for activity level tracking.
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