Promise, roadblocks for use of mHealth to target specific populations

Smartphones and other devices pose tremendous promise for healthcare, but getting data to prove that assertion, specifically among niche patient populations, isn't easy.

One example is a recent research effort by UCLA grad students on how mobile apps could help boost young gay black men's health and help prevent potential diseases, such as AIDS and diabetes, according to a LA Times report. However, the researchers learned that reaching out to people about their health can be difficult. For the study, they tried to get information from gay and bisexual men in West Hollywood, but few wanted to be involved in the study.

"People don't want to talk," UCLA grad student Charles Lea told the LA Times. One club-goer told researchers that while he sees the benefit of using mHealth tech to educate his generation about HIV, many peers may be turned off by the research process.

"We have all of this cool technology, and all kinds of cool applications," Bruce Dobkin, director of the neurologic rehabilitation program at UCLA, told the LA Times. "But will anything meaningfully improve healthcare? We need clinical trials to show that."

But there are some promising studies surrounding mHealth, as FierceMobileHealthcare has previously reported. Nearly half of American adults, 48 percent, are extremely interested in using smartphone and tablets for checking blood pressure, 47 percent are interested in tools that monitor their heartbeats and 23 percent are somewhat interested in using mHealth apps and devices.

The roadblocks to the UCLA research has not stopped healthcare professionals from seeing the promise of mHealth technology. 

Ian Holloway, an assistant professor at the Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA and lead researcher on the Healthy Selfie project involving the grad students, tells the Times that mobile technology can and will offer young, gay men something they don't currently have: a centralized spot, at their fingertips, to get authoritative health guidance on HIV.

To learn more:
- read the LA Times article

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