Five mobile applications, with scientific backing, that save lives or improve your health | Technology
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Of the more than three million applications for phones and other mobile devices (such as smart watches) that exist on the different platforms, more than 100,000, according to the Institute for Health Informatics, are oriented to health and medicine. Throughout this warehouse, some useful ones coexist with others of lesser efficiency. However, its existence highlights the capacity of mobile applications to monitor and promote individual health, modify habits, favor the relationship between doctors and patients, monitor an ailment or store significant data for a diagnosis. Five scientific investigations in the last two months have focused on the potential of these tools to develop telephone systems or mobile devices to save lives or improve them.
Anticipate heart failure by voice. William Abraham of Ohio State University presented a voice analysis application for outpatients with heart failure at the European Society of Cardiology meeting last month. According to Abraham, “the current protocol of care is simply not good enough to keep heart failure patients out of the hospital well.” “The tested system”, he explains, “is capable of predicting 80% of the worsening of heart failure. Speech analysis, along with other clinical information, can be used to modify treatments before a patient’s condition deteriorates and thus avoid hospital admission.”
In patients with heart failure, the heart doesn’t pump blood around the body as well as it should and the kidneys don’t remove fluids properly, excess fluid collects in the lungs or legs. During the development of the application, 180 patients have repeated five selected phrases every morning, before breakfast. The system compares the daily recordings with the reference versions and alerts when it detects pulmonary congestion. As Abraham explains: “The system establishes a baseline for each patient during a period of stability and detects changes in speech over time that indicate the presence of fluid in the lungs.”
This model is complementary to heart rhythm monitoring with digital devices to detect asymptomatic arrhythmias. One third of patients with atrial fibrillation have no symptoms and early diagnosis can allow appropriate treatment to reduce the risk of stroke. There are EKG patches, smart watches, forearm bands, chest straps, rings, headphones, face sensors or fingertip apps. “Before using a technology to monitor heart rate or rhythm, users should agree with their doctor which device to use, for how long, and what to do if the device issues a warning,” warns Emma Svennberg, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm and author of a guide on devices to detect and manage arrhythmias. In this sense, she states: “People need to know how to respond to the results that a device throws, if they need to go to the emergency room or can wait for an ordinary appointment.”
What your pupils say about possible neurological problems. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have developed a smartphone app to identify, through close-ups of the eyes, signs of Alzheimer’s, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other neurological disorders.
The app, introduced last May, is a pupil meter that uses a near-infrared camera built into newer smartphones for facial recognition, along with a camera. selfie conventional to measure, with millimeter precision, the size of a person’s pupil and thus assess a person’s cognitive condition, since this part of the eye enlarges when a person performs a difficult cognitive task or hears an unexpected sound
The measurements generated by the phone are comparable to those made by pupillometers, the conventional method. Colin Barry, honored for his research, states that “this technology can bring neurological screening into the home, outside of clinical laboratory settings. It opens the door for new smartphone apps to detect and monitor potential health issues.”
Diagnose jaundice with the mobile camera. Jaundice is characterized by yellowing of the skin, mucous membranes, or the whites of the eyes (sclera). It is common in newborns and generally harmless. However, this alteration, caused by bilirubin, can affect the brain and cause death (114,000 newborns die in the world each year), hearing loss, neurological disorders and developmental delays (178,000 cases of disability annually). . The key is early diagnosis, something that is common in developed countries and forms part of pediatric protocols.
Terence Leung, from University College London (UCL), has developed the neoSCB smartphone app that identifies severe jaundice in newborn babies by scanning their eyes. The system analyzes images taken on a smartphone camera to quantify the yellowness of the sclera to provide, more accurately than personal observation, an early diagnosis of neonatal jaundice that requires treatment. In the trial phases, it was effective in pinpointing 74 of the 79 cases identified in 336 newborns, only two fewer than those detected by the conventional transcutaneous bilirubinometer method.
According to Leung, “The study shows that the neoSCB app is as good as currently recommended commercial devices for detecting severely jaundiced newborns, but the app only requires a smartphone that costs less than a tenth of the commercial device. We hope that, once widely deployed, our technology can be used to save the lives of newborns in parts of the world that lack access to expensive screening devices.”
Hope in the face of drug addiction. The increase in cases of overdose with opioids detected by the Virginia UVA Health medical and academic center has led researchers from this institution to create the HOPE application (acronym for Heal Overcome Persist Endure that forms the name that in Spanish means hope) with the aim of providing vital support to patients.
HOPE facilitates contact with professionals and, through anonymous messages, the relationship with other affected to “share experiences with people who understand the challenges they face.” The evidence, published in Addiction Science & Clinical Practice Y Patient Education and Counseling, showed that a group of patients at high risk of disengaging from their treatment programs stayed with them for six months from when they started using the app and kept it active even after the treatments ended.
Rebecca Dillingham, one of the app’s developers, explains, “We had patients design it and this helped create a welcoming portal that facilitates continuity of care.” A similar app, PositiveLinks, has been developed for AIDS patients.
Both facilitate monitoring of prescribed medication and the mood of patients. They also offer specific content for recovery and monitor the consumption of narcotic substances, as well as the experiences of patients in the detoxification process. Kelly Schorling, a social worker who has been involved with Hope, says, “We’ve been able to use the data to provide more individualized care and address the treatment needs of each patient enrolled in the program.”
A nutritionist on mobile. An investigation published in Journal of Medical Internet Research shows the eNutri app, developed by researchers in human nutrition and biomedical engineering at the University of Reading for healthier eating. The participants in the trial improved their diet by 6% compared to the control group, which only received general guidance and did not have the application.
The eNutri model is based on the parameters of the Healthy diet score to assess intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, red and processed meat. Based on the score obtained, the application recommends recommended nutritional habits for each user.
Roz Fallaize, a dietitian and researcher at the Department of Food Sciences and Nutrition at the University of Reading, says that the group that had access to automated and personalized nutritional advice improved “significantly the quality of the diet”.
In this sense, he states: “Having a nutritionist or dietician who provides personalized dietary advice is ideal, but this is often only available to those with health problems or financial resources. Also, there is a growing interest in nutrition apps and web services, but many business apps tend to focus on weight loss or calorie counting rather than healthy eating.”
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