Why today's smartphones may be the only tech patients need

One of the greatest things about technology is it is always changing, always morphing and nearly always improving on what's already in play, and nowhere is this more true than the mHealth landscape.

We've all witnessed how the smartphone is now firmly a building block for hundreds of mHealth innovations, from monitoring devices and apps tracking patient's treatment to diagnostic tech helping niche groups such as veterans and those needing psychiatric treatment. Today's smartphones are helping care providers, spurring better healthcare efforts, giving patients telehealth and mobile healthcare data access all while saving time and money.

And now smartphones may take the place of wearables as the perfect mHealth device.

Apple Watch could be pushed aside as quickly as it arrives in 2015 for an iPhone or Samsung handset-based wearable that can do everything fitness bands and smartwatches do already as well as much more. The days of the hospital physician's pager, I think we can safely predict, are truly numbered.

As Amir Khan writes at U.S. News & World Report, while mobile fitness trackers are reaping big market growth and increasing consumer adoption and traction, smartphone makers are increasingly building the same features and capabilities into handsets.

That has experts predicting that "wearables could go the way of the dodo." Why? If one device can do the work of two or three, why would anyone want to manage, support and handle several devices during the day?

As Khan notes, there is one big hurdle facing all device makers--battery life. But given reports of innovations on power sourcing and potential end-runs tapping wireless networks, the issue of battery power will eventually be resolved.

The U.S. News & World Report article comes on the heels of a similar prediction that FierceMobileHealthcare reported on in late October. Christine Morgan, writing at high50, relates how researchers and scientists are working on a wide scope of mHealth technologies, such as socks that may help keep Alzheimer sufferers safe from harm and a toilet that analyzes vitamin and hydration levels.

Not only will mHealth systems, devices and apps become sophisticated well beyond today's capabilities, she notes, we are just beginning to tap the data intelligence possibilities provided by such tools.

Does this all mean the death of the dozens of fitness trackers currently available in the market and the extinction of mHealth bands and emerging smartwatches? No, it doesn't. But it does mean that mobile tech is becoming one of today's most exciting and innovative technology landscapes.

Just imagine what the next year, and the next decade will bring. - Judy (@JudyMottl and @FierceHealthIT)