Mobile Health Systems (mHealth)

Mobile Health Systems (mHealth) are emerged from the use of technology for mobile monitoring (Rašković, Martin, and Jovanov, 2004). It is also referred to as “mobile computing, medical sensor, and communications technologies for health-care” (Milošević et al., 2011). With the help of technological developments in low cost, small, light and smart sensors, personal mobile devices which have the ability of sensing, processing and communicating signs are getting more into our lives (Shahriyar, Bari, Kundu, Ahamed, and Akbar, 2009). Mobile devices are usable, ubiquitous and accessible as well as they have high technological abilities (Holzinger, Dorner, Födinger, Valdez, and Ziefle, 2010) It is claimed that these devices can provide cheap and constant mobile help with updated medical records to patients and it is indicated that Mobile Health Systems are helpful for the situations necessitate continuous monitoring for diagnosis, facilitate best conditions for the patients with chronic conditions or provide rehabilitation with computer assistance (Milošević et al., 2011). Milosevic et al list some of the usage areas of mHealth systems as follows;

 Monitoring patients after medical operations,

 Monitoring patients that have chronic illnesses,

 Providing social networks for elderly people,

 Monitoring people for promoting health and wellness (eating and exercise habits),

 Monitoring the situations of soldiers and firemen,

 Emergency services and phenomenon results in mass casualty,

 Rehabilitation in assistance with computers,

 Initiation of emergency services which provide longer monitoring.

The aim of mHealth is to make sure that anyone can use health care services regardless of the place, time and character constraints (Shahriyar et al., 2009). Shahriyar et al. also emphasize the role of design in developing and evaluating technologies for involving people in their own health care.

Many illnesses are the consequences of the daily life choices of people like diabetes (Yaggi, Araujo, and McKinlay, 2006) obesity, stress (Norris, Carroll, and Cochrane, 1992), anxiety (Fox, 1999), high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat (Shahriyar et al., 2009). In these diseases, patients are advised to see their doctors at certain intervals but in many cases, people do not want to or are not able to go for a check-up (Shahriyar et al., 2009). Bodenheimer (2005) claimed that more than 70% of all health care belongs to chronic disease expenses. According to National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (2005), in the US more than 80% of adults are overweight or obese because 70% of them do not get adequate nutrition from fruit, vegetables and vitamins. For that reason, if tools for monitoring and managing some sections of everyday life are presented to users, they can become more in control and responsible about their health (Lin et al., 2012). Shahriyar et al. (2009) point smart and personalized mHealth tools which provide users with medical feedback, save their time, increase their control over their own health and decrease long term expenses on health care. Shumaker, Ockene and Riekert (2009) indicate that design in consideration of users’ needs and perceptions which results in usable and helpful devices is the most important element for the successful mHealth devices.

Heart disease is the most common way of death in the world and it is triggered by controllable risk factors which include, smoking, inadequate exercise, malnutrition, high blood pressure, and abnormal blood lipid levels (Stephens and Allen, 2013). Other than heart disease, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, myocardial infarction, stroke, renal insufficiency, osteoporosis and chronic back” are the other illnesses which are led by those factors (Holzinger et al., 2010).

These diseases threaten not only the health situation but also the economic situation of people. While the health expenses of people increase, country economics is also affected. For example, health expenses for obesity can reach 7% of all health care expenses in developed countries like USA with 70 billion dollars for direct expenses and 48 billion dollars for indirect expenses like ineffective working because of the illness (WHO, 2010). Therefore, governments and various institutions aim to prevent these illnesses because this type of health management will reduce the future health costs (Holzinger et al., 2000). With this aim, mHealth devices become an important way of leading individuals to healthy living. Nutrition scanners, exercise trackers, trackers for specific users groups (babies, people with chronic diseases) are some of the mHealth devices.

Some of the examples will now be presented under the categories of i) nutrition scanners; ii) activity trackers; iii) general health trackers; and, iv) trackers for specific users groups.

i) Nutrition Scanners

With the advancements in technology, the studies on the devices for nutrition scan have increased. Along with numerous concept devices, SITU Smart Scale and Vessyl are two of the commercially available product examples.

Smart Scales

SITU Smart Scale is a food scale that can communicate with mobile devices. ‘SITU’ not only weighs the raw food but can also calculate an entire meal in calories with its total nutrients. It is claimed that SITU can give the precise calorie and nutrient content, and export the personal data for sharing with doctors, coaches and nutritionists. Consequently, it helps users act on the information given.


Vessyl (Mark One, 2014)

Vessyl is a bottle that recognizes its contents and tracks the nutrition information of liquids in real time. Over a perios of time, it learns the users’ consumption habits and patterns. Therefore, it can guess the users’ hydration needs. The creators of Vwssyl explain its aim as helping users make healthier and more informed decisions about their diet in real time.


ii) Activity Trackers

Within the mHealth devices, activity trackers as wristbands are the most popular ones. Fitbit Flex is one of the top rated ones in user reviews. However, there are studies for making activity trackers truly wearable and OMsignal is an alternative for wristband type activity trackers.

Fitbit Flex (Fitbit Inc., 2013)

Fitbit Flex is a wristband that can track wearer’s activity and sleep. During the day, it tracks steps, distance, calories burned and sleep quality. The users understand how well they are doing with their aim by checking out the lights on it. It also can communicate with mobile devices and users can follow their progress in real time from their mobile devices through a mobile application. According to its creators, Fitbit Flex motivates the users for being more active.

Mi Fitness Tracker

Mi Fit is defined as a biometric smart wear that can track users’ activity. It alerts users about their hearth rate when the users dropped under or risen above their aims and encourage them for pulling back or pushing on. It also warns users when they breathe irregular or unbalanced and gives advices to improve their breathing. Moreover, it gives reports about performance through its app right after working out.

iii) General Health Trackers

Technology allows users track their whole health other than their nutrition and exercise patterns. Cue is a general health tracker that presents users more than tracking weight and counting steps.

iv) Trackers for Specific User Groups

The use of mHealth devices becomes widespread in managing lives that require specific attention. People with chronic diseases for tracking their situation, addicts for quit smoking, and even parents for baby caring can make use of mHealth devices.

iHealth Align (iHealth Lab Inc., 2014)

iHealth Align is the smallest mobile glucometer used for managing diabetes. It is plugged into the smart phone’s headphone jack. It analyzes blood which has dropped on the test stick and displays the blood glucose results on the screen of the phone. Through its mobile app the users can track their results and share them with caregivers if they want to.


These examples show that mHealth devices can be used various areas to help improving people’s wellbeing. All of the above examples and most of the mHealth devices work in corporation with smart phones and mobile apps. The reason is mostly because the increased popularity of the smart phones. As Apple’s CEO Tim Cook declared, the latest model of their smart phone is sold 9 million in its first week in Apple product launch event at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on March 7, 2012 in San Francisco, California. The popularity of smart phones among mobile devices made them important in health and wellness enhancement.