Thanks to medical apps and mHealth, which is shorthand for mobile health, both doctor and consumer are taking part in a technological revolution in the way healthcare information is accessed and delivered today—and it’s right at their fingertips.
Reliable and easily available healthcare information that can be downloaded to mobile devices is now ubiquitous and growing at an unprecedented pace due to its ease of use, broad applicability, and attractive price point.
The sea change here is that bulky medical reference materials of yore have been replaced literally overnight by software applications that are nicknamed apps. Thousands of apps are available and they let health professionals and consumers access the most up-to-date medical resources, anytime, anywhere on their smartphones, tablets, and personal digital assistants. And, they are able to do this in hospitals, too, where once upon a time cell phone use was absolutely forbidden.
Some mobile apps are targeted specifically to the consumer, helping them in their health and wellness management. These apps can check their blood pressure, monitor glucose levels, and track heart rate. Some more sophisticated apps can help determine conditions such as sleep apnea, detect seizures, and automatically score or interpret cognitive testing results.
Increasingly advanced, user friendly, computationally powerful medical apps offer healthcare providers access to patients’ personal health records, extensive drug databases, dosing calculators, and disease-risk calculators. Clinical guidelines, interactive medical illustrations, and instructive videos of all kinds are now readily available with medical apps to help with the delivery of quality patient care.
We are in the midst of an app use upsurge and the medical territory they inhabit remains largely uncharted and still unregulated. There are apps that provide technology to allow users to schedule and track the medications that are regularly used. Many also send out any recall alerts or black box warnings from the Food and Drug Administration. As for dealing with pain, all a patient has to do with some apps is touch a frowning or smiling face on their mobile device, note the duration and location, and press a button to instantly share the data with his or her physician. Dosages and medications can then be adjusted as needed.
Medical apps have several significant advantages. Reliable medical information is always up to date. Doctors can answer patient queries quickly by accessing data without every leaving the patient’s bedside. Many medical apps also have interactive features that help doctors choose appropriate screening tests for patients and calculate a patient’s risk of developing a host of diseases.
Apps are also being used for remote monitoring of high-risk patients and reducing the need for office visits. Published research has reported that patients hospitalized for cardiac problems have been able to successfully complete rehabilitation exercise sessions at home thanks to their mobile device that transmits real-time data to their physicians.
It’s estimated that more than 80 percent of doctors will own smartphones by 2012. Soon after that, mobile devices will support everyone, doctors and patients alike. As medical care costs rise, as more doctors handle patient workloads with reduced support staff, mHealth may well be the answer for delivery of the most immediate and comprehensive medical care in the twenty-first century.
Where Are They Now
As mobile devices and applications have become more user-friendly, affordable and powerful, the appeal to healthcare providers has grown exponentially. The mobile health technology market—with its apps, devices, and services—now includes more than 165,000 mobile health apps, contributing to the $718 million global industry. The global market for mobile medical apps is projected to reach a near $14 billion by 2020. The successful apps are those that provide needed services, and make doctors and patients more efficient. In 2015, mobile medical applications are used by over 500 million people worldwide, and by 2018, about 1.7 million mobile phone and tablet users are expected to have downloaded a medical app. With the enormous potential impact on consumers, the FDA began regulating mobile applications that were considered a ‘device’ and has recommended guidelines for the other apps to help consumers better their health in the safest way possible.