Study: Mobile tech can boost rehab efforts for military vets

Mobile healthcare tools can help military veterans grappling with critical and life-changing medical challenges--from physical injuries to mental health conditions, according to new research published at the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

The study, which assessed patient engagement with mHealth apps among wounded service personnel in a rehab scenario, also examined how service members' backgrounds played into mHealth use. The study's participants, which included personnel challenged with behavior health problems, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, completed daily questionnaires over a 36-week period regarding the use of an Army-developed messaging app called mCare.

The texting app initially was developed in 2011 and provides users with health tips, appointment reminders and notices of new content on medical issues. As FierceMobileHealthcare reported last year, a pilot regarding the mCare program revealed mobile messaging can boost rehabilitation efforts for injured military personnel and help soldiers re-integrate following service.

Results of the most recent mCare-focused study indicate that veterans with behavioral health issues had the longest response time in messaging use, and that those with fewer health issues responded faster, provided greater feedback. Overall engagement with mCare indicated more use than the average American's adoption of mHealth apps.

"The sustained response to the questionnaires suggests engagement," the study's authors said. "With a few exceptions, service members engaged with mCare irrespective of health status. Mobile health has the potential to increase the quantity and quality of patient-provider communications in a community-based, rehabilitation care setting, above that of standard care."

The study is the latest insight on how mHealth increasingly is being used for the injured military service population. As FierceMobileHealthcare reported in August, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new device to provide faster and more accurate traumatic brain injury diagnosis for military service personnel on the battlefield. The Defense Health Headquarter's Office of the Surgeon General believes mHealth wearables, such as fitness trackers, could spur a quicker recovery for military patients and help assess physical activity capability without potential for further injury.

Further investigation will focus on treatment differences in health outcomes with relation to mCare use versus traditional care team interaction, according to the study's authors, as well as follow-up studies on specific aspects of mCare viability, including pain and goal awareness with regard to wounded service personnel and chronic care management.

For more information:
- read the study abstract

Related Articles:
Smartphone tool helps detect brain injury in soldiers on the front line
VA apps move to testing phase, full deployment looms
Wearables could help military patients, Defense official says
Researchers test app for veteran PTSD treatment

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