Mobile applications are ubiquitous today, thanks to the proliferation of apps to control nearly every aspect of our life.
Right from planning our finances, deciding where to dine, commuting etc. there is an app to assist us and make the entire process delightfully easy and hassle-free. In this scenario, can the healthcare sector be left behind? In the past few years, there has been an explosion in mobile apps for healthcare sector. These apps have paved way for a digital revolution of the healthcare industry and made a deep impact in the behavior of both patients and medical professionals in this domain. Let us look at some of the ways in which mobile applications are making the healthcare community more connected:
Online searching and appointments:
This is the single biggest way in which healthcare apps have impacted the lives of both medical personnel as well as people looking for them. People can view the schedules of the doctors of their choice and book appointments at a suitable timeslot, without standing in lengthy queues, thus saving time for both the doctors as well as the patients themselves. Apps like Practo display a listing of the hospitals and doctors based on the location and requirements of the person. We can also fine-tune our searches based on other factors like patient ratings and reviews, facilities in the hospital or the clinic etc. Many apps are also integrated with Google Maps which can show the route in real-time.
This feature impacts all the stakeholders in the healthcare sector in a big way. It eliminates the need for traditional appointment scheduling methods which are cumbersome, time-consuming and inefficient. Paper scheduling and the steady stream of phone calls burdens the business as it needs to devote some personnel permanently for this activity, which reduces its operational efficiency. Accessibility to healthcare services online helps patients stay better connected. When a patient misses a scheduled appointment, both the clinic and the doctor register a loss. Online appointment booking apps send automated reminders to the patients, thus helping reduce or eliminate no-shows.
Better Patient Engagement and Improved Patient Safety:
Mobile apps today simplify various aspects of patient engagement. The long queue at the clinics prevents doctors from fostering relationship with their patients and makes the system opaque in terms of quality and cost. Apps like mfine facilitate instant online consultation, free hospital visits and unlimited follow-ups. You can also connect to specialists on voice or video calls to ask questions and ask for help for your problems. They also enable 24*7, instant chat with the patient’s care team. Doctors can engage with their patients in remote locations and address their concerns. This system of remote monitoring enables an early intervention for chronically ill patients and engaging patients in follow-up care. Medication reminder apps can keep track of your medicine intake and remind you when to take your pills next. Based on your purchase history and consumption pattern, it can also remind you to order your next batch of prescriptions and have them delivered to your door-step. This would be a huge advance for patient safety.
Fitness and medical health tracking apps are becoming very popular. These apps can help you set targets for health goals and suggest suitable dietary plans to help you get there.
Before the advent of smartphones, the only way of deciding among multiple hospitals was by listening to the experiences of friends and neighbors, hoardings and advertisements, doctors’ name, reputation and qualifications etc. But today, we can sign in into mobile apps and get to know about a service provider’s ratings, reviews and other details which are reliable and trustworthy.
New Business Models
Mobile apps help build a better business model involving better communication with patients, online appointments, patient data confidentiality management etc. Hospital officials can monitor statistics like availability of rooms, fund allocation etc. A dedicated app can also automate all processes related to insurance procedures and payments. Healthcare service providers are using features like tracking, verification of mobile apps, patient registration forms etc. to attract consumers and improve the quality of services delivered to the end-users.
Electronic Medical Records:
A cloud-based CRM solution such as Kapture and other healthcare mobile apps like Practo allow users to upload and enter their medical history and other information on the app. And since such apps are usually cloud-based, this information is secured, seamlessly integrated across multiple devices. If a person visiting one particular doctor happens to shift to a new city, he/she needn’t worry about starting from the scratch with a new doctor. If his medical history is already uploaded on the app, the doctor in the new city can instantly bring himself/herself up to speed regarding this particular patient simply by viewing the patient’s profile. Instead of carrying around bulky tomes, and facing the constant risk of losing such data, the patients can store all their data securely and access them at a time and place of their choosing. Another advantage of providing the required medical information online is that it provides medical students and researchers an opportunity to analyze local trends, common diseases and their causes etc. Therefore, such mobile apps can be a research platform of sorts for medical experts.
Recording vital signs using smartphones
Although the apps currently available on Google Playstore, such as iCare Health Monitor can record the blood pressure, heart beat and other vital signs using just a smartphone with the help of photoelectric pulse wave signal, in the future, this capability will be augmented. We may see smartphones capable of detecting abnormalities in DNA, or detect antibodies through sensors. Both current and newer technologies can be hooked on to a smartphone to augment its capabilities.
Increased availability and affordability of medicines
Earlier, people had no choice but to pay the amount demanded by their healthcare provider. This resulted in rising costs due to lack of transparency. With the advent of mobile apps, you can compare the prices and facilities of different healthcare centers online before actually visiting them. You can also verify the authenticity of the quality of service by reading the reviews of prior patients.
Improved Healthcare and Disease Control
Thanks to the development of specific software programs, it has become easier to improve the quality of healthcare services delivered to people. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been able to classify illnesses, causes and symptoms into a massive database. This repository allows healthcare professionals and researchers to utilize valuable data in the fight to control diseases and provide better healthcare outcomes. Medical practitioners can use this data to improve the quality of care and efficiency.
Rapid strides being taken in the field of robotics, which is seen in the form of robot companions, exoskeletons etc. are enabling paralyzed people to walk, and aiding the rehabilitation of stoke or spinal cord injury patients.
Coupled with robotics, this futuristic field has exciting implications for the healthcare sector. Scientists are developing nanodevices and micro-sized robots to carry out highly delicate and precise operations inside the human body.
We live in a mobile world, where almost every aspect of our lives is guided by the ever-smarter apps. The above trends are just the beginning of what will be an exciting way ahead for collaboration of mobile technology and healthcare sector.