Some time back, I read a survey report that said that doctors are beginning to consider the smartphone and tablet as the best technological development since the invention of the stethoscopet. I believe there is tremendous scope for healthcare mobility solutions to enhance healthcare quality, affordability and reach and that right now we are only scratching the surface.
Of course the current breed of mobility solutions including the 40,000 healthcare apps (yes, that was the number at last count) are already changing the face of healthcare. Some of them facilitate remote patient monitoring, allowing pairing of devices and leveraging cloud technology. Take the case of a glucose monitor that is paired with a smartphone loaded with a specific healthcare app. The readings are transmitted to the phone and the information then pushed to the back end system on the cloud. With the electronic medical record (EMR) on the cloud, all stakeholders including the patient and the doctor can view the records real time. The healthcare provider can also act on the information immediately if necessary. The app used in this case is classified as a medical device app and hence regulated by the FDA guidelines issued in September 2013. In the case of healthcare apps meant for say implant devices, it is important that there is no interruption in the course of interaction between the smartphone and device. I believe such apps need to be hardened to enable this seamless interface.
Then there are healthcare apps used for process automation and also those intended for better administration. Process automation apps do not directly affect the patient. Take the case of an app that sends an automated message to the field service engineer when it is time for servicing a CT scanner. I think such apps help to ensure that good practices are followed in different processes: manufacturing, distribution and servicing of healthcare-related equipment and devices. I have come across many healthcare organizations using mobile apps for administration purposes as well. Many doctors use their smartphones to access patient history, current medication used and so on, any time they need the information. According to a study, 80% of physicians use smart phones and medical apps.
We can classify apps from the end user point of view as well. Business-to-enterprise apps such as those used in healthcare administration enhance employee productivity. Business-to-consumer apps help consumers in wellness and care management. Then there are the business-to-business apps; for instance an app used by a pharma company to do business with healthcare providers. Here I would like to mention the effective and rich presentations that medical sales reps make these days, courtesy mobile apps.
While the number of apps is rising by the day, one challenge I see in healthcare mobility is that of interoperability. Several EMR products are not compatible with new devices while many healthcare apps are not platform agnostic. This needs to change. I believe technology companies should focus on this area: work on EMR and app standardization so that data can be transmitted and accessed seamlessly by stakeholders. How would you go about this? Please leave a comment.