Future of mobile devices in healthcare
The past few years have seen the healthcare consumer taking advantage of technological advancements through the use of wearable devices, mobile apps, and smart-phone linked devices to get a better grip on their health related issues. The market is full of intuitive mobile devices and apps to monitor vital statistics, record heart rate, ECG, respiratory rate, skin temperature, sample analysis and keeping track of medication adherence. Such devices help trigger alerts and raise red flags in case of any trouble so that patients can target such issues through suitable interventions. More than anything, these devices provide convenience, which is what most consumers want.
In the U.S., since provider payments are increasingly getting tied to outcomes which are dependent on the quality of care delivered to the patient, this trend has been promoted likewise by the physician community as well. Hence, any means which has the probability of improving outcomes and can be delivered cost-effectively is more than welcomed by the provider community which is the reason why providers are equally excited by their patients' use of mobile apps. These devices can also reduce the clinic time for patients whose symptoms can be better managed at home, thereby bringing down the cost of care as well. The data streaming from medical devices and health apps can be used to decide whether there is a need for the patient to be seen, called urgently or to be prescribed medication. Besides this, payers also reap benefits out of these apps since the healthier the patient the lesser the claims and lesser the claim costs. Hence we have seen the rise of such tools especially over the past few years and for the same reason the market for wearable healthcare devices and mobile apps would likely grow in the future as well.
However this can only happen provided data security concerns are adequately taken care of. Also, if the data being generated out of these devices just adds another complex layer rather than the insights that it is supposed to drive at for improving the treatment being delivered to the patient, it will be promptly rejected. Health information technology can help promote multiple uses of such real time data provided the systems have the capability to handle data streaming. Data streaming however, has to be seamless, secure and HIPAA compliant. Such data can then be used to create treatment protocols to improve outcomes. With such advancements in technology, it wouldn't be long before these become indispensable to the care of the patient.
However the current market is saturated with over 50,000 free and nearly free products and to get above the curve more and more physicians are looking for FDA approval before prescribing any app. Hence to compete in such a fast paced, competitive environment, such products have to innovate and be equipped with features to diagnose and treat and come up with new value propositions. Appropriate clearances have to be met, data security has to be taken care of. Some examples of such new apps are those approved by FDA for radiologists to view images on their smartphones, and for cardiologists to monitor arrhythmias. In fact, there needs to be a central database for such apps and a categorization similar to medication categorization might be needed.
In time, these mobile devices are bound to give way to more sophisticated mobile health products, subject to FDA approvals. Future mobile apps will have larger databases with increased clinical benefits through features such as CDSS built into them. Various other types of mobile apps will also continue to have innovative features built into them depending on the needs of the consumers and will incorporate the latest technology such as artificial intelligence-oriented algorithms, in the backend. These would be the next generation mobile apps which will bring in the next phase of change in the healthcare world. Hence the current market is more likely to mature and give way to more innovative and secure mobile health products.