Like any other part of human life, healthcare has been digitised in many ways but there is still lots of tiresome paperwork in the sphere. Solutions have been proposed to enhance the system and make the future of healthcare swifter, more provider-friendly, are free from paper records. Not only this, but mobile apps and other digital tools promise to make the industry more flexible and liberate people from many of the cares involved in managing their medical treatment.
There’s a thriving market of fitness apps for people to improve their workouts and nutrition patterns, as well as lots of successful self-care apps. While healthcare programs represent another category, all these tools are interlinked. Gathering data about how one sleeps, eats, feels, and trains via various health and fitness apps, users can then share it with healthcare workers for more reliable treatment and medical care.
MadAppGang has worked on several health-related projects. We developed Secure My Health, an app for doctors and patients to ensure the completion of prescription schedules. We also created SmartRun, an innovative program for runners which views the heart rate as the most important indicator for healthy running practices.
Secure My Health
Because of our expertise in the domain, we regularly explore the health app market and keep up to date with current healthcare mobile apps trends.
Healthcare solutions can be divided into the following categories:
The most demanded mHealth solutions are designed to connect patients with doctors and increase hospital efficiency. As for health conditions management, diabetes is the most popular sector among disease-specific apps, which is understandable given more than 400 million people live with diabetes.
Various wellness apps go hand in hand with healthcare ones because, as we’ve mentioned, the data people gather about themselves while training or tracking sleep with the help of an app can play a crucial role in the quality of medical services.
What we are about to see is a total shift towards digital medical care. The records are more often kept electronically, there are more opportunities for remote patient monitoring, and more tools for individual health monitoring are emerging. Digital health deals are booming: the value ofinvestments reached $2 billionin the first quarter of 2019 alone. So, what are the latest trends in mobile healthcare regarding functionality, technology, and interconnectivity?
During a lifetime, every person gathers lots of information about their health. With electronic health records, all the information can be accessed anywhere, any time. Since people are becoming more aware of their health and illnesses, they show a huge interest in applications which contain their records. Having a medical history, lab results, treatment plans, and medication lists on their phones, people can release themselves from unnecessary appointments and improve the level of their medical care.
In the US, the conversion of patients’ records into a digital form was recognised and facilitated on the national level in 2004. In Australia, they established a national digital health agency in 2016 to provide every citizen with their own digital record to maintain and control. Some European states appear to be even more ready for the healthcare of the future: Scandinavian countries and UK were estimated to have the best conditions to implement mHealth initiatives.
Google is exploring ways to improve healthcare, and, among other things, provides an API for unifying medical data. Some other corporations like InterSystems develop platforms for health information exchange.
There are plenty of region-specific applications which offer patients control over their medical records. For example, Be Healthy gathers data and synchronises it with the event calendar, health calculator, and other tools. Let’s say a patient wants to set an appointment for the blood test and they can do it via the app, specifying the date and cost, adding notes and setting reminders. There’s also a family plan for $2.99 per month.
Healthcare systems try to minimise examination and consultation visits. Lots of basic health parameters can already be measured by patients thanks to wearables and other technologies. Also, there are multisensory methods for remote blood pressure measurement, portable systems for ECG monitoring, and other solutions developed for people to track their health. Healthcare mobile apps for patients to perform remote monitoring are already making progress in terms of increasing patient satisfaction and reducing the risk of readmissions.
Everything that doesn't need special equipment and professional assistance can be measured with an app. Mobile programs like Heart Rate Tracker, SmartBP, BMI Calculator, and Healthy Vision help people examine their health data and get insights based on current measurements. There are also solutions for contacting doctors remotely, for instance, First Derm Online Dermatology provides anonymous online consultations.
The impactful aspect of remote functionality is that it can serve patients in developing countries who might not have access to specialised medical centres. It’s not time yet to speak of the global adoption of healthcare applications, but it’s surely on the agenda.
Remote monitoring is also quite helpful while travelling; a person can get prescription reminders and tips for keeping safe in the new environment. A mobile app can serve both as a means of communication with a doctor and as a source of advice about local conditions that might pose health threats.
Even though by 2013 only three per cent of American hospitals had their own apps, this is something many patients expect. Various types of clinics, as well as laboratories, pharmacies, and other medical centres, can provide their patients with the opportunity to connect to a doctor, plan treatment processes, and control their information online. For clinics, it’s a chance to boost their image and gain digital user statistics.
The most popular categories of hospital apps are wayfinding, pregnancy, cancer care, and urgent care. Mobile technology appears to be the fastest one to help with emergency issues.
Data visualization is what can make health details understandable for any person. Many health-related apps have a function involving charts based on the user’s health state and performance. In most cases, this function is considered a value-adding one and is given in paid versions.
For example, people can send diabetes charts provided by apps like Diabetes Buddy or myShugr to their doctors. 3D interactive elements can also be a great help, especially in educational apps like Muscle and Bone Anatomy 3D or 3D Yoga Anatomy Lite.
Blood Pressure Grapher and Blood Test Grapher provide users with graphs displaying their current measurements and changes. Based on patient-generated data, these apps also calculate the risk of various diseases. There are some apps that act as visual journals, for example, Migraine Insight Tracker helps to explore the real triggers of migraines.
In our article about health and fitness apps, we stated that users needed AI integration to make further progress and receive personalised service. It’s also a market request for the mHealth sector. AI can improve clinical outcomes by presenting self-learning and context-aware systems which will customize treatments. AI-based systems can adjust the service to each person individually and quickly spot any deviance thanks to data analysis.
There are numerous AI companions for health tracking which prepare personalised diet plans or workout recommendations. There are also AI-powered chatbots, such as Replica, designed for facilitating mental wellness, and AI-based solutions for hearing aids or other issues.
AI is being implemented to better facilitate the processes healthcare workers handle as well. The Stream app, developed by DeepMind, addresses the problem of a so-called failure to rescue. The firm, partnered with Google, is hoping to make the program a smart assistant for nurses and doctors. DeepMind also carries out research on AI implementation, for example, a project aimed at spotting eye diseases.
AI technology is also being introduced to oncology. IBM Watson Health is applying AI to cancer care to reduce the variability of treatment and support evidence-informed treatment decisions. IBM Watson Health actually offers no less than 80 AI services for various medical insights.
The business of wearables is centred around health tracking, so apps for smartwatches also make their way into the healthcare system. For instance, HealthTap for Android Wear sends notifications about prescriptions and doctor-created checklists. Apps like Hexoskin and Qardio track not only movement intensity, which is a basic feature of any wearable device, but also ECG, heartbeat, blood pressure, and other health data.
Medical wearables are a resounding success: it’s estimated the market will reach $14 billion in revenue by 2022. Apart from smartwatches, there are glucose monitors, cardiac monitors, and even smart diagnostic sensors for patients to detect their muscle activity, temperature, and so on.
The healthcare sector can become more flexible and efficient because of this interconnectivity. With wearable devices providing valuable health information remotely, medical facilities can become smart hospitals with better analytics and more efficient operational processes. This is a person-centric model which many in the healthcare mobile app market opt for.
All major technology companies realise that they need to cooperate with medical institutions and start integrating mHealth tools. For example, Apple partnered with the clinical software firm Epic Systems back in 2014. Apart from the app HealthKit, which collects health data, Apple developed ResearchKit for medical researchers and CareKit for hospitals.
Not only is HealthKit available for third-party developers to build new solutions on top of its infrastructure, but it is also continuously improved. Heart function, body fat percentage, and blood pressure are already accurately measured by mobile technology. The way the company looks at the problem is the way to make a fully valid medical device out of a smartphone. This is a general tendency in the mobile health market; include the maximum number of functions possible.
The undeniable advantage of apps is that they can reduce human error, eliminate delays, and represent a flexible reference system. While there are clearly many benefits of mobile apps in healthcare and mobile development is one of the fastest growing industries, healthcare solutions still have to maturate in lots of aspects. The main challenges health apps face are connected to the design, security of records and their interoperability, and cost-effectiveness.
Unlike general health and fitness apps, which normally prioritise fun elements and interactive features, most healthcare solutions still suffer from poorly designed interfaces and ill-considered usability. Mobile applications need to present everything very clearly and be exceedingly convenient to use.
Personal health records are among the most vulnerable types of data, so privacy and security need to be ensured at every level. Mobile apps in the healthcare industry should have a strict system regulating who can amend the records and how they do so.
Apart from being well protected, the data should be easily shareable so that patients can send test results or other details to a doctor. Moreover, the industry lacks unification. There are initiatives to unify medical data, such as the FHIR framework, but they progress far too slowly. Health information security and interoperability are issues of a higher level which concern not only applications but the whole system.
Speaking of applications for hospitals, the expenses put into the development and installation of mobile software, middleware, and hardware devices in facilities should be reasonable. How these different parts of a system interact with each other is also a vital issue.
Medical institutions need to hire developers who are experienced in the domain, to set up data exchange between existing in-house systems and a mobile app. Complying to FHIR standards and a strict adherence to OWASP recommendations, as well as extensive testing and a third-party audit, are all musts for the development of healthcare solutions.
If you have any original health app ideas and would like to brainstorm with a team experienced in this field, please reach out to us and we’d be happy to help out.
26 July 2019
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