Healthcare providers from around the globe are currently faced with significant challenges due to an exponential rise in costs, increased demand for services, and limited access to financial and human resources. This is directly linked to the fact that people are living longer with an expected 761 million of us being over the age of 65 by 2025.
This will increase the risk of chronic disease and other co-morbidities amongst the elderly and estimates suggest that treating this particular group of people currently accounts for 78% of all healthcare expenditure (over a trillion US dollars per year) with spending expected to be $4.3 trillion in 2018 compared to $27.5 billion in 1960.
Whilst increasing life expectancy is at an all-time high, it has become difficult to sustain. One suggestion is that quality of life and life expectancy can be increased through healthy aging and lifestyle choices. Positive behavioural changes will empower people and support the prevention of acute episodes, including the provision of provide better services that are tailored to people’s healthcare needs.
This presents a unique opportunity were the use of information and communications technology could be used to support the delivery and management of healthcare services. Building on advances in Smartphone technologies and wireless communications it is possible to bridge the gap between people and medical facilities and transform healthcare services and clinical intervention within the community.
These technologies, as well as allowing us to make a phone call, text a friend, or update our social networking site, provide access to vital data about a person that can be collected and analysed to support research, medical and healthcare education, and clinical
practice with less reliance on secondary care (hospital admissions).
Empowering people in the community, particularly the aging population, allows them to evaluate lifestyle choices and to take control of
their own healthcare needs. Diseases, such as diabetes and obesity are often caused by an accumulation of unmonitored health-related choices, such as poor nutrition and lack of exercise, which occur over decades rather than weeks or months.
Smartphones, body sensors, and wireless communications provide the necessary tools to host community healthcare services and applications capable of real-time monitoring and analysis of lifestyle choices. Using digital diaries, social networking, SMS, amongst other technologies, makes it possible to manage adherence and provide education about relevant medical conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, sexual health, poor nutrition and the lack of exercise.
All this will have the ability to empower people and encourage personal consumer healthcare beyond what is currently possible.
Nonetheless, due to the criticality of healthcare and the complex coordination and delivery of healthcare services it is not surprising that we have not seen widespread adoption of mobile ICT in health. The healthcare domain is sensitive to change and this will require new processes, methodologies and tools, and this comes at a time when sustainable health is becoming increasingly more difficult.
From a technical perspective, a number of challenges still remain and form part of the topics under this call for papers.