Mobile technology is advancing, and healthcare has been placed in the middle of a mobile revolution. Growing uptake of digital health applications on smart phones is set to radically change the way healthcare is delivered. Accessing health information on mobile devices will soon be the new standard, and health apps will play an ever increasing role in this system.
In 2011 there were roughly 17,000 health-related applications for iPhones, Android-based devices, and other smart phones and tablets, estimates Frost & Sullivan. Health apps can not only perform relatively simple tasks, such as counting calories, but also help consumers and healthcare professionals track, monitor, and share personal-health information for a variety of increasingly complex conditions, including heart failure, respiratory illness, and mental illness. "For this reason, health apps represent a great tool for informing and supporting patients in the self-management of their health and wellbeing," states Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst, Malgorzata Filar.
Currently, simple apps that are easily downloadable for smart phones or tablets constitute the majority of mHealth-related apps. They require relatively unsophisticated tools and calculators with lower-levels of security and analytics than apps intended for healthcare professionals. A persistent trend is that most healthcare apps track workouts or diets. Far fewer are dedicated to real health problems, such as chronic condition management.
Despite the promising future of mobile health apps, there are several issues that have to be addressed before patients and doctors can truly enjoy the benefits of mobile health.
"Achieving sustained health outcome depends on consumer engagement with health treatments. Many chronic conditions require careful adherence to voluntary behaviours, such as monitoring nutrition, managing weight, and exercising healthy choices. The best piloted programmes often fail because these lifestyle changes are hard to follow consistently over a continued period of time," notes Ms Filar.
Another obstacle comes from physicians who may not encourage or even dissuade patients from the use of mHealth apps. Clinicians fear that as consumers become empowered with information about price, quality, services, and wait times, doctors will lose control over revenues and how medicine is practiced. They are afraid that the traditional role of the doctor as a guide to health treatments will weaken as consumers rely on mobile health apps or access Websites on their smart phones to direct their own healthcare.
While tablets and smart phones combined with mobile apps have the potential to improve patient care, apps should provide some clinical decision-making data to truly add any value to the quality of care. However, without quality clinical research to back them up, they may be a waste of IT resources.
Nevertheless, with telehealth and at-home care for the aging emerging as new care delivery models, rising adoption of mobile devices and advancing mobile technology, the demand for mHealth apps will continue to grow.
"With more personalized, sophisticated, web-based healthcare applications there is a promising market for health apps developers and technology vendors," says Ms Filar. "Further, mobile network operators have started to tap into these opportunities and perceive mHealth as a natural extension of their core activities. Moreover, with the huge influx of medical data from sensors and other devices, there will be an increased need for advanced data analytics tools and companies focused on data management. The business around mHealth should thrive and become mutually beneficial for all involved," she concludes.
If you would like to learn more about mobile apps in healthcare, please send an email to Joanna Lewandowska, Corporate Communications, at Joanna.lewandowska[.]frost.com. Please include your full contact details in the query.
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