With thousands of apps available to consumers and mobile solutions being used in almost every medical center across the country, mobile health technology is a big industry projected to continue growing over the next few years. Statista reports that the global mobile health market will generate an estimated $28 billion in 2018.
According to The Economist, continued development of mobile health solutions is a major point of emphasis among investors, which have poured more than $6 billion into startup funding in 2017. Mobile apps for healthcare are part of a bright future for the medical industry, but mobile’s history in serving healthcare goes back decades. Here’s a look at important mobile innovations that continue to serve the healthcare industry today.
Pagers have a long history in healthcare. According to Slate, roughly 64 million pagers were being used in hospitals by 1994, offering the convenience of remote communication that couldn’t be matched by other technologies at that time.
Mobile technology has come a lot way since then, but pagers haven’t been relegated to the dustbin yet. Unlike notifications on smartphones, pagers deliver a message that users can’t ignore, which guarantees that the recipient quickly receives the message. Pagers aren’t perfect, especially when it comes to their security, but they will continue to be used until mobile alternatives can offer similar or superior reliability while also addressing some of the challenges that currently limit the pager system.
Before smartphones were an option, cell phones offered crucial two-way communication that allowed messages and conversations between healthcare professionals outside of the hospital setting. Cell phones gradually replaced pagers in many hospitals, but these also offered their own limitations: Their batteries could run out, delaying the delivery of communications, and service connections were unreliable, especially when cell tower infrastructure was less developed.
Mobile apps for healthcare
With the advent of smartphones came an explosion of mobile apps serving the patient population. These apps provide a wide range of services to give patients better medical information, improve connectivity with medical providers, manage medications and so on. Mobile apps for healthcare professionals also became a viable option, especially when it comes to improving communication between doctors and patients, such as facilitating scheduling, sending out reminders and granting access to lab reports and other medical information.
But these mobile apps face greater challenges when attempting to serve the healthcare industry, due to the additional compliance requirements. There’s a difference between a consumer-oriented health and wellness app available online and a mobile app solution that services the healthcare community. Solutions aspiring to be the latter must provide a valuable service while also adhering to industry regulations.
Today’s communication comes in many different forms, including text messages, email and app-based notifications. But all of these must meet certain standards to be HIPPA compliant. This compliance includes meeting set security standards that provide a reasonable degree of protection and receiving consent from patients to share private information over these channels.
Whether text messaging via smartphones or using mobile apps to engage with patients, healthcare providers now have options for communicating properly with patients. This improves the quality of care and engagement with patients by allowing them to choose their preferred method of communication.
Mobile tools for physicians
Physicians and healthcare providers are among the biggest proponents of using mobile technology to improve healthcare. From the use of mobile diagnostic tools to tools that improve physician efficiency through smart workflow management, physicians now use mobile solutions to make them better and more efficient in their roles.
These mobile tools represent an ever-expanding set of mobile solutions at the disposal of medical providers, improving patient care and helping institutions reduce healthcare costs. While some industries may find that professionals are averse to embracing new technologies, physicians have typically responded well to mobile solutions: TechTarget reports that 80 percent of doctors use smartphones or tablets at work, while 93 percent of physicians use mobile technology daily in their professional work.
Smart wearables like Fitbit wristbands are popular examples of health and wellness wearables for consumers, but medical institutions are investing heavily into wearables that serve patients in new, innovative ways.
According to Information Week, common wearables already used in healthcare settings include real-time blood pressure monitors, exercise performance and physical fitness, glucose monitors and light therapy technology to help patients with chronic pain. These wearables provide multiple services, supporting patient health and even offering outpatient treatment while collecting data that can be transferred back to the healthcare organization and analyzed to improve care and treatment strategies in the future.
While mobile apps for healthcare are already used on a daily basis, their role is expected to grow steadily over the next few years as startups and developers apply new mobile solutions to longtime healthcare challenges.