Wishing you all a Joyous Festive Season from the AQuAS blog

29 Dec
Marta Millaret

From the blog AQUAS we hope you are having a good festive season and would like to thank you for reading and following us.

We publish weekly in Catalan, Spanish and English on subjects related to the projects that are being carried out at AQuAS and we also publish contributions from guest authors. The editorial line of the blog includes a focus on assessment from different points of view and areas of the health system.

Along these lines, we have dealt with healthcare and quality results presented by the different agents who make up the healthcare system, the whole range of observatories of the Catalan Health System (including that which deals with the effects of the economic crisis on the health of the population and innovation), qualitative research, integrated care, the assessment of mHealth, inequalities in health, patient involvement, doctor-patient communication, shared decisions, patient and citizen preferences, variations in medical practice, the prevention of low-value clinical practices, the impact of research, information and communications technology, data analysis in research, tools for the visualisation of data, innovation and health management, the gender perspective in science, statistical issues, clinical safety with electronic prescriptions, chronicity (not forgetting chronicity in children), the effects of air pollution in health and current topics.


The most read articles in 2016 have been:

However, we have published many more texts, 51 posts to be precise, without counting this one, with the aim of sharing knowledge and generating a space for reflection, open and useful for everyone.

Thank you very much, a joyous festive season and see you in the new year!

Post written by Marta Millaret (@MartaMillaret), blog AQuAS editor.



Health care apps: a whole new world. Separating the wheat from the chaff?

10 Mar
Carme Carrion
Carme Carrion

Not too long ago, our grandparents, and even our parents, would be given closed envelopes at the practitioner’s, with the results of medical tests or reports that one healthcare professional would send to another one. Patients were mere couriers of the information regarding their very own health. Surely, more than one would not “respect the rules” and open the envelope, to read what actually belonged to them.

Things are very different now. The democratisation of society; the better education of citizens, at all levels; the growing concern about all issues regarding our health, be it physical, mental, emotional or social, or the fact that information flows fast, have occurred in parallel to the great technological revolution, which has dramatically changed many aspects of our everyday life. And amidst this change of paradigm, apps have appeared.

There is an app for each aspect of our daily life, and instead of helping make it easier, it ends up gets more complicated. Health is no exception, obviously. There are said to be more than 100,000 health apps now, of which less than 20% are addressed to the management of specific diseases, such as diabetes or depression. The rest of apps are included in what is called wellbeing apps, which promote healthy lifestyle habits.

Avaluació mHealth Carme Carrion

Within this new situation some questions are bound to arise: Will apps change the way we interact with our health and the healthcare system? Which is the best app to treat a particular disease? Are all apps appropriate for any kind of person? Do they add value to everyday practice? Are they effective? Will there be a day when healthcare professionals would prescribe the use of an app, along with a drug or a diet?

So far, there is no clear answer to these questions. It is widely accepted that the technological aspects -data safety or interoperability- should be validated. But what about validation of their contents? Is there some kind of scientific evidence behind the recommendations made by the apps? How should we validate their efficacy and cost-effectiveness?

In the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the attendants of a conference on the role of apps in lifestyle changes, most of them with a technological background, concluded that a renowned institution was needed to assess or validate the current bubble of health apps; this should be done, however, without thwarting innovation. It seems now that the concern on separating the wheat from the chaff is becoming obvious even to developers.

Digital Health & Wellness Summit

Digital Health & Wellness Summit - MWC - Picture of @EdwinMermans

Post written by Carme Carrion (@Carme Carrion).

A brief about digital health topics during the Mobile World Congress, here.

Mobile Is Everything

3 Mar

Barcelona Mobile FiraBarcelona is Mobile. The great mobile world exhibition has not gone unnoticed to the city. With a record 100,000 visitors, the Mobile World Congress took place last week in Barcelona, under the theme “Mobile is everything”. Considering the innovations presented in it, it appears that healthcare is also becoming mobile (mhealth).

The massive mobile technology world fair gathered mobile operators, technology manufacturers, providers, distributors, and content providers who presented the industry’s latest innovations. According to Genís Roca (@genisroca), the contents  of this year’s Mobile World Congress has turned around these 6 topics:

1.    Graphene
2.    Virtual reality
3.    eSim
4.    Connected Car
5.    5G
6.    Internet of Things – IoT

Three of these large trends have very clear applications in the field of healthcare.

The first topic is graphene. The Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2), in collaboration with research centres from Barcelona and the Autonomous University of Barcelona, has presented a group of graphene electronic sensors that can be used to detect the electrical activity of the brain. The early detection of an epileptic crisis could be possible in patients suffering from epilepsy and implanted with these sensors. The implanted device on the cortex would alert the patient by, for instance, sending an alarm signal to an external mobile device.

Virtual reality has been the main character in the congress, or at least, the one that caused more anticipation. This was best seen in the long queues to visit Samsung’s roller coaster or SK Telecom’s submarine.

Gear VR Theater with 4DVirtual reality applications are starting to appear in the field of mental healthcare. Thus, startups such as MindWave (with their project HealthVR) or Psious offer treatments to tackle phobias, fears or generalised anxiety by exposing patients to virtual reality images, in some cases as part of a cognitive behavioural therapy.

Finally, the Internet of Things is gaining ground: Internet connected objects are creating new business models and involve more and more sectors. For instance, the monitorisation of vital signs (weight, glucose, blood pressure, physical training, etc.) is increasingly more common with connected wearables (smartwatches, bracelets, etc.) that allow to collect real time data. Connected devices also allow the control and follow-up of chronic diseases, such as diabetes with Insulclok.

The mobile industry will undoubtedly continue to evolve, and its applications in the field of healthcare will grow even more. I was lucky to attend the course Mobile Thinking Days-Digital Health (organised by Mobile World Capital Barcelona, IESE Business School and RocaSalvatella), and one of the key messages that appealed to me is that any product subjected to digital pressure will end up transformed into a service (Genís Roca dixit). Therefore, a big challenge of mhealth will be to offer disruptive, quality services that meet the patients’ needs.

Elena TorrenteEntry written by Elena Torrente (@etorrente), digital health coordinator in DKV Services.