Introduction: The popularity of mobile phone applications (Apps) and wearable devices for medical and health purposes is on the rise, but not all the mobile health (mHealth) innovative solutions that hit the news every day will sustain and have an impact on the health of people. The aim of this news-based horizon scanning study was to explore and identify new and emerging mobile technologies that are likely to impact the future of health and medical care.
Methods: We conducted a systematic search on top ranking technology websites, according to Alexa Ranking, to identify health-related mobile-based technologies. We followed the EuroScan guide for horizon scanning, which recommends four steps: identification, filtering, prioritization, evaluation and conclusion. Technologies of interest were mHealth technologies regardless of their maturity level. The impact of technologies was assessed and scored in four areas: user, technology, safety, and cost.
Results: Five hundred news articles were identified through the electronic search. After screening, 106 mHealth innovative technologies were included in this study. We categorized the included technologies into three groups: mobile apps (n=37), smart-connected devices (n=19), and wearables (n=50). mHealth technologies were most frequently developed for preventive health services, mental health services and rehabilitation services. There was no remarkable difference between the technology groups in terms of safety and adverse effects, but the groups were significantly different in terms of the target population, technology, and cost.
Conclusion: An increasing number of solutions based on mobile technology is being developed by both public and private sectors but a low proportion of them undergo proper scientific evaluations. Despite the commercial availability of many innovative mobile apps, wearables, and smart connected devices, few of them have been actually used in clinics, hospitals, and health centers. There is a clear need for changes in healthcare service models to unlock the full potential of these innovative technologies.
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