iPads enable UCLA docs to monitor chronically ill patients

Chronic conditions continue to be a gateway for healthcare providers to offer aid to their patients using mobile health tools. Case in point, doctors, nurses and patients at University of California, Los Angeles, are taking advantage of the iPad to improve the quality of treatment for patients with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, according to the school.

The school's Center for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases recently completed a pilot program in which patients answered daily health, wellness, activity and work productivity questions via an interactive program on the device. The answers then automatically go to the patients' providers for review. Patients also were asked to check in with their providers via the device from time to time.

Patient activity and responses, in turn, helped the providers to determine their own responses to the patients. Sometimes doctors suggested a new prescription; other times, they set up appointments for the patients.

"Using a tablet like an iPad helps us to reach out and interact with patients during their daily lives and routines so we can intervene early, if needed," Daniel Hommes, the director of the Center for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases said in a statement. "We want patients to feel that carrying the iPad is like having a doctor in your back pocket."

Hershel Sinay, an ulcerative colitis patient involved in the pilot program, called the technology "empowering" because it allows him to have input in his care. "The iPad is the perfect assistant to keep tabs on my condition, and it enables me to take part in monitoring my progress," he said.

According to UCLA, the center plans to enroll 250 patients in the program, now that the pilot has proven successful. Hommes said the program will be expanded to other chronic diseases and will be available to patients via apps for tablets and smartphones.

Last winter, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center was involved in a clinical pilot in which Ginger.io, a health monitoring app created by researchers with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was used to predict downturns in young adults with inflammatory bowel diseases. Because the steroids that control IBD can be harmful if taken for too long, clinicians used the app to determine exactly when a patient's IBD symptoms subsided so they could discontinue the medication as soon as possible.

To learn more:
- here's the UCLA announcement