How smartphones can revolutionise healthcare

Mobile devices could rapidly reshape the practice of medicine by enabling smooth cross-platform communications, Harvard researchers say.

The next-generation software tools could also reduce healthcare costs. The rise of health apps has made it possible to chart your steps, heartbeat, and sleep patterns, but the availability of this constant stream of information has yet to reach patient electronic health records.

President Obama declared the development of personalised medicine a priority in his 2015 State of the Union Address.

While most initiatives are focused on sequencing patient genomes, Ken Mandl, Isaac Kohane, and Joshua Mandel of Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School argue that an individual’s genetic information could be put to even better use if it was linked to app-fuelled, electronic health record systems.

“How will the innovations from the President’s initiative reach the doctor and the patient, and how will the new data types needed for precision medicine be integrated into medical decision making?” the authors said.

Healthcare IT
“Electronic health records are not designed for storage or display of genomic data nor for the computation that will no doubt be needed to eventually tailor therapy to a patient’s genome,” authors added.

One problem is that current electronic health record systems do not support standardised interfaces for accessing data contained within them, noted the study published in the journal Cell Systems.

As a result, it is time consuming and costly to develop tools for using these data to improve healthcare, and the resulting tools, and the best practices they embody, can be difficult to transfer between clinics.

The authors outline how recent collaborations between major hospitals, technology vendors, federal committees and industry organisations are accelerating the adoption of standard application programming interfaces for reading and writing data from electronic health record systems.

“A good app, distributed widely, could reshape practice overnight,” the researchers said.


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