There are 6,210 hospitals in the United States. Thanks to regulatory and payment changes (such as alternative payment models), hospitals may now need to shift from focusing on volume to delivering value-based care. One way facilities are ensuring value remains a priority is through the use of health care apps and technology. In fact, in 2017, Harvard Business Review reported that around 800 digital health startups (paywall) were funded.
And the American Hospital Association (via HBR) found that 75% of senior hospital executives endorse digital innovations. As the CEO of a company that builds artificial intelligence (AI) to solve health care problems, I've noticed many mobile applications recently that help doctors, insurance companies and, most importantly, the patients.
According to Pew Research Center, 96% of Americans own some type of cellphone. As of February 2019, 81% owned smartphones.
We use them to shop online and look up facts. Companies are also offering patient portals that are accessible through a mobile phone. Health care apps offer features that let patients and others monitor their health. These apps often let you measure and record things like your weight, blood sugar level, heartbeat, blood pressure and cholesterol. This can enable a patient to take immediate action if levels increase or decrease.
Patients can now immediately connect with their doctors and their practice through their phones to schedule appointments, receive appointment reminders, and even contact them if there's an emergency. Medication apps for an android or iPhone allow patients to track their medications and set up reminders so they don't miss a dose.
Providing A Faster, More Precise Approach To Diagnosis
There are several times where a physical exam is unnecessary and a phone conversation could help resolve the issue, which saves both the doctor and their patients time and money. Medical professionals can also use their phones to view all patient reports, which lets them make quick and correct decisions in emergency cases.
Mobile Health Apps In Remote Areas
Those who live in rural areas often are faced with a lack of access to proper health care. As of 2018, that was 85.5 million people, and 4,022 rural doctors were needed to close this gap.
Thanks to several mobile health apps, those who live in remote or rural areas now have access to health services. They can now book appointments and even buy medicines online without having to travel to a hospital first. For instance, Practo is not just an app to find a doctor; it also helps users find medical services and solutions online to enable them to take better care of themselves. For example, it allows its users to book doctor's appointments, order medicines, schedule diagnostic tests or even have an online consultation.
Also, those in rural areas can now use these apps to get helpful health care tips through apps like Fitbit Coach, which can act as your personal trainer; Nudge, which helps coaches provide motivation to their clients to work out; and HealthyOut, which helps you find and choose better takeout options. All these apps aim to help you improve their health.
Streamlining The Process
Some health care mobile apps help streamline the entire process for health care professionals. Now all health care professionals can have access to all information and data, especially since many advanced pieces of medical equipment can be connected to the patient's body, which allows them to remotely monitor vital parameters. For example, according to their website, Ceras Health's I'm Home! makes it easy to follow care plan instructions and stay connected to the care team by allowing users to track progress, upload medical records, receive alerts and alarms when interventions are needed, track biometrics behavior and medications, follow discharge plans, integrate with wearable devices and communicate with their care team.
Capturing And Sharing Data In Real-Time
Many mobile health apps, such as LiveHealth Online, come with image- or video-capturing functionalities. This lets patients and doctors securely take photos or video of everything from complex injuries to simple skin rashes, enabling doctors to view accurate comparisons online that can help during follow-up visits or an immediate, new diagnosis. This can help doctors because they're engaged in real-time and have access to accurate and clear visual details.
Ease Of E-Prescriptions
When a patient is in pain, has a life-threatening illness or runs out of medication, they don't want to have to wait. Medication apps such as MyMedisafe, a medication reminder app, and MyMeds, let physicians prescribe medications quickly and monitor those medications anywhere and at any time, which can enhance the quality of care. With MyMeds, prescriptions go directly from the doctor's smartphone to the pharmacy.
Reducing Risk Of An Incorrect Diagnosis Or Treatment
Doctors and their staff are extremely busy. It's easy when relying on paper and verbal communications to make a mistake, especially if there are language barriers between the patient and the medical staff. With a health care app, doctors can accurately prescribe the right medicine at the correct dosage and chemical compositions. For example, Epocrates provides safety, diagnostic and treatment information to doctors.
Transforming Industries And Business Models
I believe our health care system is in desperate need of transformation. Health care apps and AI are in the process of transforming business models and entire industries. In the not-too-distant future, health care apps could become even more valuable by predicting outcomes based on symptoms and complications in the care of a patient. They could perhaps become so advanced that they could put a digital doctor (similar to Woebot) on any internet-of-things-compliant screen to answer routine questions, provide critical information and give immediate comfort to patients, which could dramatically improve the quality of care.
Originally published in Forbes by Terrence Mills on September 4, 2019