The Rise of mHealth Research in Europe: A Macroscopic Analysis of EC-Funded Projects of the Last Decade

The Rise of mHealth Research in Europe: A Macroscopic Analysis of EC-Funded Projects of the Last Decade

Yiannis Koumpouros (University of West Attica, Greece) and Aggelos Georgoulas (University of West Attica, Greece)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8021-8.ch001


The proliferation of mhealth holds great promise for improving human health. The mhealth industry has developed into a vivid ecosystem, growing steadily over the last years with the adoption of new technologies and business models that are transforming healthcare. To this end, the European Commission launched several initiatives offering great funding opportunities for researchers and organizations. The purpose of this chapter is to provide the readers with a macroscopic analysis of the European mhealth-related funded activities of the last decade. The study examines the current situation and future trends in three main axes (innovation, area of application, and adoption) to assess whether the provided mhealth solutions are positioned to have a fundamental impact on healthcare domain. The mhealth research is accelerating fast and holds great promise, improving both patient outcomes while lowering the healthcare costs.
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Health care is the industry that leads the technological developments while adopting the first the Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) innovations (Koumpouros I., 2012). The complexity and inherent multiple healthcare system components enforce technological innovation in order to overcome impediments and failures which slow or inhibit progress in the healthcare sector. The challenges faced are numerous, i.e. the exponential growth of data produced, the financial viability of the system, security and privacy issues, the ageing of the population, and similar (OECD, 2018) (UN, 2017), (Koumpouros Y., 2014). There is a great need for well-established solutions able to manage the flow of information between the different parties and actors in the healthcare industry effectively. The explosion of new technological solutions, along with the appearance of the net generation, forced to find new ways to provide the health care services (PWC, 2012), (Jones & Shao, 2011), (Bayne & Ross, 2007).

The health care industry is one of the domains that are penetrated by many mobile technology solutions. For example, mobile technology is having a dramatic impact on the way health care is delivered to both urban and rural communities in developing countries (e.g. the African Region). The use of the term mHealth is widely used the past years for such a purpose. To date, there are several definitions of mHealth:

  • The Global Observatory for eHealth - GOe (WHO, mHealth. New horizons for health through mobile technologies: Based on the findings of the second global survey on eHealth, 2011) and the European Commission (EC, COM(2014) 219 final, 2014) defined mHealth as “medical and public health practice supported by mobile devices, such as mobile phones, patient monitoring devices, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and other wireless devices”.

  • The World Health Organization -WHO (Youssef, MacCallum, McDonald, Crane, & Jackman, 2012) refers to mHealth as “the spread of mobile technologies as well as advancements in their innovative application to address health priorities”.

  • HIMSS - Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS, Healtcare Information and Management Systems Society, 2015) supports that “mHealth is the generation, aggregation, and dissemination of health information via mobile and wireless devices.”

  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH, n.d.) defines mHealth as “the use of mobile and wireless technologies along with wearable and fixed sensors for the improvement of health outcomes, healthcare services, and health research”.

  • United Nations Foundation (VitalWaveConsulting, 2009) refers to mHealth as “the provision of health-related services via mobile communications”.

The chapter adopts the Global Observatory for eHealth (GOe) definition of mHealth (WHO, mHealth. New horizons for health through mobile technologies: Based on the findings of the second global survey on eHealth, 2011).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Patient-centered: Patient-centered refers to any case (process, operation, system, etc.) that is focused, designed and developed based on the patient’s needs and the patient’s pathway, while trying to fulfill his/her expectations. The term is usually used in patient-centered care.

Behavioral Intervention Technologies (BITs): It includes mHealth and eHealth interventions to support people in changing behaviors and cognitions related to mental health, health and wellness. It is a multidisciplinary field, including psychologists, physicians, software engineers, human factors engineers, computer scientists, etc. BITs apply behavioral and psychological intervention strategies by using the latest ICTs.

Biosensor: It refers to an analytical device able to detect, record and transmit information regarding physiological/biological change or process (e.g., blood pressure, etc.). Some other indicative applications relate to the detection of body movement, temperature and fluid analysis, which are turned into electrical signals. In summary, it converts a biological response into an electrical signal. The biosensor is made up of a biological recognition element (e.g., an enzyme, a nucleic acid, or an antibody) and a transducer (to convert the recognition event into a measurable signal).

EHealth: Refers to the use of information and communication technologies for the support of healthcare practice. It covers electronic exchange of health-related data, while may be used for clinical, educational, research and administrative purposes.

MHealth: The term is referred to the use of mobile technologies combined with wearable and fixed sensors to provide health-related services.

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs): The term is referred in the technologies used from the telecommunication and informatics sectors as well as any possible combination of them. It may include any communication device (e.g., telephone, tv, radio, cell phones, computers, satellite systems, wireless networks, etc.), as well as the software, applications and services associated with them which enable users to exchange information. The term covers also the audio-visual sector in combination with computer networks and telecommunication networks.

Chronic Care Management (CCM): The term is interchanged with disease management and is referred to activities (e.g., motivating patients to persist in therapies, etc.) carried out by health care professionals to help patients with chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, etc.) learn and understand their condition and live with it having reasonable quality of life.

Body Area Network (BAN): A body area network (BAN) or a body sensor network (BSN) or a wireless body area network (WBAN) can be defined as a system of low power devices/sensors in close proximity to the body of the user that cooperate using a wireless network for the benefit of the subject/end user. The devices may be wearable, implants, etc., and through gateway devices, it is possible to connect them to the Internet and transmit data to a local base station and remote places. A WBAN system can use WPAN wireless technologies as gateways to reach longer ranges. In the medical sector, they are used to help medical professionals to monitor patients’ data and activities remotely.

Wearable Devices: The term can also be found as wearables, wearable technology, fashionable technology, etc. It refers to accessories that can be worn on the body and clothing incorporating electronic technologies and computer. The main idea behind wearables is the ability to connect to the Internet, thus enabling data exchange between the device and the network. Wearables can provide biofeedback and tracking of physiological function and transmit the information. Biosnesors are also used for wearables. Glasses, watches, headbands, bracelets, and others are some examples of wearable devices. Smart tattoos and implanted devices are a more invasive version of wearables.

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