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High mobile and smartphone penetration rates in UAE offer opportunities

Given the high penetration rates of mobile and smartphones, the number of mobile-health apps is relatively low in the UAE.

Given the high penetration rates of mobile and smartphones, the number of mobile-health (m-health) apps is relatively low in the UAE.

This especially is the case when compared to developed nations such as the United Kingdom where the health ministry has endorsed up to 500 digital tools, which can be prescribed by physicians to manage conditions ranging from diabetes to depression.

One of the biggest barriers in the region is the lack of awareness. A routine appointment with a specialised doctor lasts no more than 15 to 30 minutes, which physicians agree is not enough time to discuss and educate the patient on their condition.

Although mobile phone apps for diabetes management have come under fire for lack of educational effectiveness, the majority of software developers have incorporated data export and communication utilities.

Individuals can use the application to feed data on to the phone, which can then be sent directly to the physician or clinic.

"The real-time record of one's diabetes progression in a way helps them to understand their condition better," says Atul Aundhekar a doctor at iCARE Clinics.

"A particular symptom that the doctor may miss on a regular examination can be kept on record and examined based on recurrence and effect."

Most m-health apps provide features for recording blood sugar levels and various symptoms, which can be synchronised with personal health record (PHR) systems or patient portals.

Apps for managing diabetes are quite handy when it comes to timely reminders on everything from what to eat to how many calories you have to burn in a day.

"The average human diagnosed with diabetes finds it difficult to cope with dietary and lifestyle changes the condition brings. It's common for individuals to miss a dosage of insulin, or wrongly estimate dietary intake.

Mobile apps with ready-made information on these matters prove to be a big boost," says Dr Aundhekar. Some of the recognised mobile phone diabetes management apps are MyTelcare Diabetes Pal, Glucose Buddy, WaveSense and Vree, which can be used on Apple's iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. On Track is a diabetes app that can be used on Android phones, whereas Nokia Symbian users can avail the Diabetes Care Free app or vClinic DIABETIC.

"Mobile phone apps are taking the world by storm, and there is no dearth of curiosity in this region.

"There needs to be a concerted move to bring the public and the healthcare system in closer proximity to the scope and benefits of mobile health management for conditions such as diabetes," says Dr Aundhekar.

 

thamid@thenational.ae

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