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Mobile Computing

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Mobile Technology and Social Networking in the Health Sector Introduction Rapid technological advances have brought about a new twist of operation in the health segment. Mobile computing devices and other portable devices such as iPods and iPads have redefined the relationship between computers and human beings. These technological advances signify substantial evidence of departure from computational paradigms, which necessitated users to explicitly interact with computing systems to achieve the expected results. The health sector is also demonstrating its pursuit to be in tandem with the changing technology. By using advanced methods, which are not substitutes, but techniques to improve monitoring of patients health, the sector has demonstrated the efficiency of the use of technology to monitor patients’ status even while at home. This global integration of operations from different applications enables data sharing, via image, and voice outputs. According to Magal and Word (2011), patient monitoring is indispensable to any health facility. Several departments are equipped with electrical and computing devices that facilitate the monitoring of patient status. Not only are these facilities meant for use in the health centers, but also, technology has opened up other platforms through which patients can share their experiences with other patients of similar conditions, and monitor their health progress without the need of visiting health centers physically.
Comparison of Inpatient Monitoring and the Use of Mobile Devices A survey carried out to determine the efficiency of the use of mobile devices to monitor patient’s health, revealed that; doctors were of the opinion that the use of health applications on mobile devices to monitor patient vital status, will cut down visits to health centers, and other medical facilities. Vital signs make up the most crucial components to watch in the health status of patients. These include blood sugar levels, blood pressure, respiratory rates, and blood oxygen levels among others. With a total population of more than 320 million mobile phones and portable devices, and only 1.7 million hospital beds in the U.S, the use of mobile phones will significantly reduce congestion in health facilities, as this would mean that a single bed will represent 185 devices (Avancha, Baxi and Kotz, 2012). This is not only cost efficient, but also significantly reduces the costs associated with inpatient visits and admissions that cause congestion. In a separate survey that had similar objectives as the first one, at least 90% of doctors interviewed were supportive of the idea of using mobile devices to track health status (Blake, 2008). In the survey, mobile devices helped patients track their health status at affordable costs without the need of travelling to medical facilities. According to Turban and Volonino (2011), most of the physicians said that the use of technology to track health records is as efficient as inpatient visits, but has an upper hand as it minimizes time wastage on queues in medical facilities, and other costs associated with in patient monitoring activities. Another activity associated with the use of mobile devices to track health records, is the availability of social platforms that allow similar patients to share their experiences online, without having to visit each other physically. This creates awareness among those concerned and implants a sense of responsibility to those directly affected. Physicians also concur with the fact that the use of mobile devices to track health progress significantly minimizes workload, and allows them to serve more patients, as opposed to when they have to deal with the patients directly. At least 58% of those interviewed concurred with the fact that the use of mobile devices to track their health status helped them make faster decisions pertaining to their health status in comparison to in patient visits (Blake, 2008).
Advantages and Disadvantages of the use of mobile Technology The pivotal aim of the use of mobile devices has been to improve the condition of patient lives and health. According to Avancha Baxi, and Kotz (2012), mobile technology has enhanced the frequency at which physicians monitor the health status of their patients, thereby guaranteeing patients the provision of quality service in a timely manner. Another advantage of the use of mobile devices is that, these devices have enhanced the improvement and efficiency of health services in a variety of ways. Patients take fewer visits to medical facilities, and at the same time spend less money as compared to the amount that would have been spent by taking in patient visits. Doctors are able to monitor and give reliable feedback on questions asked in timely durations, as opposed to when the patients will have to make visits to health facilities. The overall result is that, efficient services are given timely. The costs incurred in operation using mobile devices are significantly lower in comparison to when physical visits have to be made in hospital. Gas or transportation costs, as well as the time that would be used top generate income is well directed to other activities. The costs incurred by hospital administration to print paper, and store data is significantly reduced as all the information will be accessed by both the patient, and their physicians from their hard drive. This is more efficient than when physical visits are done. Other benefits are the improvement of patient independence and responsibility in their health matters, and the fact that these devices facilitate the growth of social networks, which are reliable platforms for sharing health experiences. Despite being backed by physicians and receiving a lot of support from its proponents. One of the hurdles being faced in embracing mobile technology for monitoring health status include the digital divide experienced among different age groups and social classes. Blake (2008), states that access to medical facilities and treatment is a priority regardless of their status. Therefore, the use of technology to access treatment may lock other groups from receiving treatment leading to the deterioration of their health. Privacy and security issues stand as the central threat to using mobile devices to monitor the health status of most patients. Vulnerable sites and the possibility of accessing vital patient information by illegal parties, puts most of the facilities at a spot on the use of mobile devices to track a patient’s health status.
Assessing of Security concerns Security concerns have emerged as the greatest concern in the use of mobile devices to track the status of patients’ health. Privacy laws that protect patient information are critical aspects of the technology that health administrators must comply. However, Blake (2008), states that only 65% of the companies that make use of mobile technology devices have reinforced their privacy laws. With 35% not complying with privacy laws, this means that vital patient information is at risk. This does not meet the required compliancy laws set to guarantee patients the safety of their information. Other people argue that the use of paper based methods to store patient data was cumbersome, but more secure than the use of technology which risks many people getting access to vital patient information. As a result, some shy away from using mobile devices to track their health status. Lack of a central information control, on how individuals get access to information, also increase the potential of the wrong party, gaining access to information that is crucial to patients. As a result, the use of passwords to enhance authentication and data protection has been introduced. Nevertheless, the existence of password cracking software still makes the information vulnerable thereby making the confidentiality of information limited.
Assessing the Use of Social Networks for Group Supports Through social networking, patients with similar conditions are able to find group support and share their experiences with others in similar groups. As a result, more gain better insight on the need to take better care of their health through group advice. Free at al. (2013), state that this interaction has motivated scores of people who may have previously thought their health conditions were unique to them alone. When they find similar cases of patients in social networks, their morale to take better care of their health improves thereby contributing positively to the improvement of their health status. Doctors also find it easy to medically assist patients regardless of their distances through similar platforms hence making the process simpler.
Conclusion
The use of mobile devices and similar technologies to monitor patient health status has proved to be efficient. They demonstrate the benefits of technology in solving matters that would have previously been presumed as serious. Though there are limitations restricting the efficient use of these devices, considerable efforts are being put into place to ensure that these devices serve the benefit of all to minimize the costs and time associated with physical inpatient visits to health centers.

References
Avancha, S., Baxi, A., & Kotz, D. (2012). Privacy in mobile technology for personal healthcare. ACM Computing Surveys, 45(1), 3:1-3:54.
Blake, H. (2008). Innovation in practice: mobile phone technology in patient care. British Journal Of Community Nursing, 13 (4), 160-165.
Free, C., Phillips, G., Watson, L., Galli, L., Felix, L., Edwards, P., & … Haines, A. (2013). The effectiveness of mobile-health technologies to improve health care service delivery processes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Plos Medicine, 10(1), 1-26.
Magal, S. R., & Word, J. (2011). Integrated business processes with ERP systems. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Turban, E., & Volonino, L. (2011) Information technology for management (8th ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

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