by Lisa Peyton

HATE your mobile phone? We’ve all had moments when we wish we weren’t reachable 24/7 but it’s time to think outside

of ourselves. Mobile technology has gone global and the implications for positive change are enormous. One area that has huge potential to literally save lives is in the healthcare sector. In both developing and developed countries, mobile technology offers low-cost health care solutions to patients and doctors. Developing countries are finding solutions to help deal with infectious diseases and developed countries are focusing on chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease (Mechael, P. 2008).

Mobile Technology Impacts Healthcare in Developing Nations

Healthcare professionals in developing countries are coming up with creative ways to help serve remote populations. Mobile phones have allowed them to monitor rural populations more frequently and have improved the coordination of disease prevention and control (Mechael, P.). Mobile phones are beginning to ‘connect’ tribes and communities that were virtually unreachable before the technology existed. Health care professionals in these areas can also easily reach experts and specialists, helping them provide better services to their patients. Mobile phones within the general population and among health care professionals are improving emergency services and resulting in increased efficiency and effectiveness of health service delivery (Mechael, P. 2008, P. 101).

Smartphone as an Agent of Change

In developed countries the health care industry is buzzing with the implications surrounding smartphone technology. There are an estimated 7,000 smartphone apps taking advantage of the benefits of mobile technology. These benefits include portability, continuous data stream and enough computing power to support multimedia software applications (Boulos, M. N., Wheeler, S., Tavares, C., & Jones, R., 2011). Currently the most successful apps are targeted to younger, healthier populations as the aged and chronically ill are less likely to have adopted smartphones. However, smartphone adoption will increase over time as costs come down, apps become easier to use and there is greater awareness around what smartphones can do (Boulos, M. N., et al., 2011).

Part of what is making smartphone apps so successful is their ability to change behavior. Not only are apps being developed to help monitor and treat those already sick but many are aimed at helping to PREVENT disease. As Rutledge points out in ‘The Psychology of Mobile Technologies’ mobile has the ability to “change attitudes and behavior in a number of ways that rely on context awareness, which can take the form of reminders, practical information, and rich-media experience” (Rutledge, P., 2013). B. J. Fogg’s work in this area via his Behavior Model demonstrates how triggers can succeed at changing behavior and mobile technology can now deliver those triggers 24 hours a day (Fogg, B.J., 2011).

Healthcare Apps Are Just Tip of the Iceberg

New technology has taken healthcare beyond the mobile phone. Other wearable devices are being developed that someday could make a HUGE impact on how we approach our health. Nike has developed a wrist band that measures activity. The Nike+ Fuelband translates ANY activity into Nike fuel points that can be synched with a smartphone app. The app rewards you for meeting personal goals and encourages you to connect with friends that are also using the fuelband. Nike created the device in hopes of getting EVERYONE, not just runners, off the couch and moving. Since I have been using the device, I have to admit that I’ve been taking the stairs and getting in longer walks with my dog.

Nike Fuelband as an agent of change - Mobile technology impacting healthcare.

But the Fuelband is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to wearable devices. Another new device developed by AliveCor turns your smartphone into an electrocardiogram heart monitor. The monitor records, displays, stores and transfers ECG rhythms wirelessly with the corresponding AliveECG app.

AliveCorp portable ECG promises to change the face of healthcare.

Theoretically this information could be transferred to a doctor and warnings could be made if there were any signs of irregularity. This type of device could someday help prevent and predict heart attacks. Obviously this type of preventative care initially would be limited to those with the means to pay for the service. However, according to the AliveCor press release, “they plan to make the vital health signs of people around the globe visible and actionable, at exceptionally low cost. This improves everything from public health to the lives and possibilities of people all over the world.”


Boulos, M. N., Wheeler, S., Tavares, C., & Jones, R. (2011). How smartphones are changing the face of mobile and participatory healthcare: an overview, with example from eCAALYX. Biomedical engineering online, 10(1), 24.

Cohen, Jill (2013). AliveCor Expands Mobile ECG Device Offering to Include iPhone 5.businesswire.com. (http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20130508005330/en/AliveCor-Expands-Mobile-ECG-Device-Offering-Include)

Fogg, B. J. (2011). BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model. Internet: http://www. behaviormodel.org/[accessed on Mar 10, 2012].

Mechael, P. (2008). Health Services and the Mobile: A Case from Egypt. Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies.

Rutledge, P. (2013). The Psychology of Mobile Technologies. Global Mobile: Applications and Innovations for the Worldwide Mobile Ecosystem 576.