Mobile health a contender for gold in Russia, Rio and beyond

Apparently the Millennials formed a secret Facebook group and voted: The 2012 London games have officially been re-named the "Social Olympics." (Sorry, but I refuse to call it the "Socialympics.")

And maybe they have a point: Twitter reported there were more than 150 million mentions of the Olympics in 16 days. An army of cell phone-toting athletes and spectators reportedly sent out more than 9 million tweets during the opening ceremonies alone--by some counts there were more tweets on Day One than there were during the entire two weeks of the 2008 games in Bejing.

And although the title "mHealth Games" was not on this year's ballot, given the rapid growth of the mobile healthcare market and the emergence of health technologies such as body sensors, it surely could be a contender for future game nicknames.

The University of Miami gave us a look at what could come in Russia and beyond when it enrolled Brazilian Olympians in a pilot telemedicine program that monitors health and key performance indicators. It employs robots that Miller School trauma experts use to diagnose and care for U.S. soldiers injured in Iraq and mobile telemedicine software that powers smartphones and tablet devices, according to a University statement.

Why Brazil? The University is working with the Brazilian Olympic Committee to extend telemedicine services to staff, visitors and all athletes competing in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio.

Two motorized robots equipped with video screens were stationed at the Crystal Palace in London during the games, ready to link the Brazilian medical team with experts from the Ryder Trauma Center, the National Institute of Traumatology, the Orthopedic Rehabilitation and the Brazilian Beneficent Association for Rehabilitation and Samaritan Hospital, all in Rio de Janeiro. Using data, voice and videoconferencing features, specialists in Miami and Rio de Janeiro can remotely analyze medical situations and view video footage of the athletes in action.

And in other Olympic healthcare technology news …

Brian T. Horowitz over at eWeek put together a slideshow on mobile health and fitness apps for Olympians, athletes, and weekend warriors. The U.S. women's cycling team, for example uses apps to monitor their blood glucose levels and track their sleep patterns.

Apologies for straying from the mobile theme, but the use of electronic health records at the Olympics deserves a mention (a bronze medal, perhaps?). The U.S. Olympic Committee deployed EHRs to replace the "pallets of paper" that historically had to be shipped to the games. About 700 athletes and 3,000 records were included in the EHR system, FierceEMR recently reported.  

Finally, falling into the not-at-all-serious category is BBC's online Olympic Athlete Body Match widget. Plug in your height and weight and the site shows you photos and stats of Olympic athletes who share those same characteristics.

Considering the global love affair with smartphones and the Olympic drive to be faster, stronger and better, my money is on mHealth to medal in coming years.

And who knows? Maybe BBC will even add more tall female athletes to its database so I don't have to re-live the trauma of discovering that all of my Olympic athlete body matches are men. - @Gienna

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