Monday 14 July 2014, 14:36 | By

In the News July 2014 – Apple and Google enter our domain

CSL In The News

The Creative Skills For Life mandate crosses many disciplines, markets and industries, in particulardigital health, palliative care and creative arts therapy.

July News Review

As we explore the potential of cross-pollination with a view to improving quality of life for people with chronic, often long-term conditions, we’re keeping tabs on key news items that add to an ongoing dialogue. In recent weeks we’ve picked up on quite a lot in the way of new developments to report on.

HEALTH APPS AND WEARABLE TECH MARKET NEWS
The biggest digital health news on many a social media newsfeed last month had to be fitness apps and wearable devices being unveiled, most notably the official announcement of Apple’s HealthKit. The health tracking app was unveiled at Apple’s World Wide Developers’ Conference on 2 Jun, with some interesting features that will measure blood pressure, heart rate, exercise, calories burnt, cholesterol, sleep patterns, weight, lab results, blood alcohol content, body temperature, oxygen saturation, RR interval and blood sugar, to name a few.

The announcement has sparked even more rumours that there will be an iWatch available later this year which will go head-to-head with Samsung’s Gear Fit, the latest of three smartwatches announced this year by the South Korean company. Focusing on exercise and the quantified self, the Gear Fit is a smartwatch with a higher purpose.

And then there’s Google, which on 25 Jun  launched Google Fit, a fitness and health tracking platform for use on its Android devices, in direct competition with Apple’s HealthKit. Sensors from Google’s wearables and mobile devices will be able to exchange information with apps so users will be given more accurate, real-time recommendations to improve their fitness and health

So there’s a lot of action in this space and we were encouraged to read on Mashable that health and fitness app usage is up 62% in the past six months, possibly negating naysayers’ doubts that mHealth apps are faddy. We also learned that sales for wearable tech units could exceed 48 million units in 2014, according to mHealthWatch.

But the real question that underlines these developments is how wearables and health tracking apps will affect the future of healthcare. Recode’s James Temple writes that we could see a shift from treatment to prevention if wearable health technology is used correctly and enough data is collected too. That’s a bold claim, but indicates a potentially pivotal point for the mHealth market, and one we’ll be monitoring closely.

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PALLIATIVE CARE SUPPORT REDUCES DEPRESSION IN CARERS
With palliative care being high on CSL’s agenda, we were interested to read in Medical News Today about some new research that explores the wide-reaching benefits of palliative care services.

At the recent AGM of the American Society Of Clinical Oncologists, researchers from Dartmouth College revealed that their research had found that when palliative care support was given around the time of a person’s advanced cancer diagnosis, the person’s caregivers had less depression, found themselves to be less burdened by performing care-giving tasks, and had a better quality of life.

The benefits that palliative care gives a person who is living with a life threatening condition is broadly acknowledged by the medical community, but this research highlights how palliative care is advantageous to carers too, and also highlights the benefits of such programmes beginning at diagnosis, which could aid the re-evaluation of palliative care as no longer simply an ‘end-of-life service’.

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ART THERAPY SERVES TO CELEBRATE LIFE AFTER CANCER DIAGNOSIS
Research and development in art therapy and its role in healthcare is growing, with the new All Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Health and Wellbeing meeting for the first time earlier this year, and the London Creativity And Wellbeing Week (run by London Arts In Health Forum), which took place last month, both proof of increased interest. These organisations and events raise the profile of the role of arts in health, and help to campaign for (much needed) further research into the field, which could see arts therapy being incorporated in our healthcare system more routinely.

Meanwhile, a report from across The Pond of a unique art therapy project in a hospital in Indianapolis US caught our eye too. The programme – Living Forward – encourages people whose lives have been touched by cancer (people diagnosed with cancer, their families, friends and carers) to celebrate life.

The programme is aimed at helping people express their emotions as they live with cancer, undergo treatment, or live in remission and beyond. One woman – Risé Friedman – who has been cancer-free for three years after being diagnosed with a fast-growing form of breast cancer explains how the art therapy programme helps her: “Your head clears. There is such a tranquillity and peace”.

All in all, it’s been a busy month for the CSL news monitor on Twitter, especially with Apple and Google – two of the biggest key players in the mobile arena – entering the digital health market. Not to say that these giants always get their products right, but we hope that both HealthKit and Google Fit will provide the momentum necessary to make digital healthcare viable at scale, and not just provide another trend for the early adopters to get involved with.