Smartphones: From Luxury Item to Vital Public Service

A new Brookings report says smartphones are becoming vital to our health, work, and travel.

“Smartphones can … improve the provision of healthcare by encouraging healthy behavior, remotely connecting patients to doctors, and reminding patients to follow through on treatments at home,” the report says. “Insurance companies already offer financial incentives to customers that track their exercise activity using fitness apps. Telemedicine allows patients to consult with specialists located far from home. Finally, doctors can send reminders to patients to take medicines at the appropriate times, and also receive timely feedback on how well a treatment is working. Rather than compete with health insurance for a limited amount of income, smartphones should augment healthcare.”

In terms of mobility, “cities and towns without the population density to support mass transportation infrastructure are turning to rideshare apps to boost the mobility of residents,” the report says. “Towns on the outskirts of Philadelphia, Tampa, and Oakland subsidize the rides that residents order on their smartphones. Other cities are experimenting with bus routes that change dynamically when riders order a pickup via smartphone app. While these services might not replace cars in cities without public transportation, offering another option may reduce traffic congestion. Smartphones are the linchpin for today’s flexible public transportation options.”

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