One of mHealth’s goals is to securely connect patients to physicians using devices such as smartphones. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: There is an urgent need to implement mobile health solutions as cases of chronic diseases increase in Gulf states, health experts said.

Speaking on the sidelines of the mHealth summit Middle East held in Abu Dhabi last week, Michael Morgan-Curran, global director of mobile health and diabetes at mobile operators association GSMA, said mobile health care services must be standardised  so data can be shared by multiple health care facilities and professionals.

“For example, many apps collect  blood glucose levels of patients on a daily basis, but this information is often not sent to a physician who can track changes and advise the patient accordingly,” he said.

“Moreover, each facility collects this information in a different format. As a result, the patient’s medical history cannot be used by another organisation, and each needs to duplicate the data collection process unnecessarily.

“Patients are also forced to remember all this information accurately and relay it to every new health care professional they visit,” he added.

The focus on mHealth is not lost on UAE health care officials, with many regulators and public facilities implementing systems of their own.

Ali Al Ali, director of Information Technology at the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (Haad), said a smartphone app already allows residents to search for health care facilities, check their body mass index or find a physician. “At present, we are looking into how we can implement screening programmes by securely connecting patients to physicians using their medical devices,” he added.

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) also offers 35 per cent of its electronic services on mobile apps, and expects to provide all of them in 2015, Arif Ali, senior systems analyst at DHA, said.

It has also implemented diabetes control in one of its facilities to see whether mHealth can aid treatment.

“Hospital admissions place a great burden on the health care sector,” Morgan-Curran said, adding that if mHealth is used to track patients, early intervention can be taken for someone whose blood glucose level is too high, or who is showing symptoms of kidney failure.

In Europe, mHealth deployment had reduced hospital admission duration by an average of five days, he added.