Google launched its new tool “health card” on Tuesday. With this, it became a curator of information on health, moving on from its previous role as only a provider of health-related information. Google has joined a new bandwagon of health information providers who are using technology to disseminate basic facts about diseases. Such platforms, primarily apps, are being promoted by the private sector and the government alike.
“Considering that 80% of health issues are related to preventive health, mobiles, apps and digital content are becoming a very effective tool for wider dissemination and impact,” said Osama Manzar, founder-director of Delhi-based not-for-profit Digital Empowerment Foundation. “What is also observed is that mobile apps are being used more in urban areas in terms of engaging the patients,” he said.
Here is a list of some prominent technological tools available in India that are helping people understand their ailments better:
1. Heart app: Launched last month, the app is available through Google Playstore and Apple’s App Store. The heart app helps to find whether a person is suffering from coronary heart disease. Devised by Rajeev Rathi, a cardiologist at Max Super Speciality Hospital in Saket, Delhi, the app seeks answers to a set of seven basic questions which a physician would ask in case of unease or discomfort in the chest. An analysis of answers indicates the possibility of a heart attack. “Even if a healthy person answers the questionnaire, the app will indicate how far or near the person is to a heart disease,” said a spokesperson for Rajeev Rathi.
In addition, it makes the user aware of heart diseases and preventive measures.
2. MAMA or Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action: The app, developed by the United Nations Foundation in partnership with healthcare company Johnson and Johnson, targets expecting mothers, helping them to keep healthy and deliver healthy babies. Users receive two-three messages per week, giving them stage-based advice. Available in India, South Africa, Bangladesh and Nigeria, the app is adapted to the needs of each country and sends culturally sensitive messages.
The advice is given by health workers and doctors in primary health centres. Since they are delivered on the mobile, it saves the effort for a pregnant woman to go to a health centre.
3. Google Health Card: Type the name of a disease in Google search, and the homepage looks different from before. That’s because there is a section upfront which tells you about important characteristics and data about the disease. It also provides information on the age groups affected. This is the new Google health and knowledge card that was launched in India on 5 April. India became the second country after the US to have this service. Next in line is Brazil.
The tool is different from Wikipedia because it has been adapted to the local needs of the country and has been verified by doctors from institutes like All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, Apollo Hospitals and Columbia Asia Hospital.
“It does not replace a doctor or a physician. But it satisfies initial questions that come to people’s mind about diseases. We expect this tool to empower people to have deeper conversations with their doctors,” said Prem Ramaswami, senior product manager, Google Search.
4. iLap: It is yet another app to help people learn about the causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of liver diseases. Developed by Delhi government’s Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences, the app has comprehensive details about all types of hepatitis and liver cancer, which are slowly becoming more common. It explains minute differences between symptoms of jaundice and hepatitis.
The focus of the app is on information rather than diagnosis. The information is available in question-answer format.
5. Mission Indradhanush: The Union ministry of health and family welfare launched an app last year to keep a tab on progress of immunization of children under the mission. In addition, it updates all information on the mission on various social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
“We do not directly put information regarding dates and place for vaccination. But a lot of such information is routed through social media. As people write on Facebook in their own languages, the information provided through the app is in multiple languages, making it more inclusive,” said a health ministry official.