Mobile applications essentially run our lives nowadays, thanks to the ever-growing mobile user base, the rapid innovation of smartphones and the expanding broadband infrastructure. Smart devices have dramatically changed the way we work, communicate and socialize, most notably with the "BYOD" (Bring Your Own Device) trend that blurred the lines between personal and professional use of tech gadgets; bringing a new dimension to the business world and health care industry as well.
The ever-increasing pressure to find a new, clever idea that packs a punch on high-capacity cloud services, stuffing as much information as possible inside of a tiny mobile device, is a challenging task for both new startups and the pioneers of healthcare information technology (IT) but that doesn't stop either party. According to recent research conducted by PwC, newcomers in healthcare IT are "redefining the $9.59 trillion global healthcare market for consumers, medical providers, payers, and investors in both developed and developing nations." These new players are making their own way onto the virtual healthcare market, offering more affordable and convenient healthcare options, wellness and more. Soon, your nutritionist might be answering your questions by pulling out her tablet and showing you the details of your digestive system in full 3D animation.
The term "mobile healthcare application" covers a wide area of usage; there are more than 50,000 apps in the App Store alone. Some of these apps tracks data manually, while others provide tools to measure vital signs. Analysts predict that in the next year the mobile healthcare app market will be a $26 billion market.
So, how is this going to work for the healthcare ecosystem as a whole? Here are the ways mobile innovations change the medical world for the better:
Patients, doctors and other healthcare professionals all use smartphones. In the same way that we communicate with each other via smart devices, doctors communicate with their patients via mobile devices. Today, mobile devices are changing the modes of human interaction, and the doctor-patient relationship is no exception. One of the primary goals of healthcare innovation today is to eliminate the need for long waits at the doctor's office.
Mobile apps can change the concept of health care for patients who either live in rural areas or have limited mobility due to physical ailments; namely, the elderly. By getting real-time medical data from next-generation accessories like smartbands, doctors can monitor a patient's vital signs remotely. To illustrate, the mobile tech provider Qualcomm's Wireless Reach program has partnered up with the Lire Care Networks and the Community Health Association of China, deploying a digital tracker that records 30 seconds of heart rate data and sends this information to the Life Care Networks Call Center in Beijing. The facility itself has over 40 physicians who are able to diagnose patients in remote areas via wireless monitoring systems, providing feedback to those with cardiovascular diseases. In China, where heart disease kills more than 3 million people annually, this program became a milestone for mobile innovation in healthcare.
Skip the pharmacy
Mobile app stores offer many apps with alarm and reminder capabilities, including pill reminders. These apps offer patients a way to track their medicine usage and set up reminders on their smart devices or on the Apple watch. The U.S.-based online pharmacy app for Walgreens took this one step further, offering capabilities to refill prescriptions by scanning prescription labels using the app. US-based online pharmacy service Walgreens even took this a bit further: Patients can also skip the waiting room and see a doctor live via the Doctor Consultation video call service available on smart devices.
Breaking the language barrier
Voice call (VoIP) services like Skype now provides real-time voice translation with mobile apps in more than 50 languages. It may not seem such a big deal but for countries that have millions of residents who don't speak the native language, such as in the U.S., it is a major challenge for healthcare professionals (HCPs) to get critical information from patients. Thankfully, there's an app for that!
The Science Applications International Corporation has created a mobile app called Omnifluent Health to get HCPs and patients on the same page. By using this app, a doctor or a patient can speak on the phone and their words will be automatically translated into the selected language. From a financial perspective, this means hospitals and medical organizations won't have to spend money on translators. For patients, on the other hand, it eliminates the lost waiting time associated with language barriers and the need for translators during a trip to the emergency room or doctor's office.
Health is rising in popularity and mobile apps will be an integral part of the innovation. As the health industry discovers new and unique ways to provide better medical services, smart device users will continue to see more and more useful mobile apps offered on their smartphones.