According to an IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics report (IMS is the world’s leading information, services and technology company dedicated to making healthcare perform better), there are “over 40,000 healthcare apps available for download in the U.S.” If you did a few searches in your smart phone app store and checked these out, you would quickly realize most of them are relatively primitive. The future for increased patient engagement in healthcare, through applications, is certainly promising.
The majority of these apps that exist now function around diet and exercise. I use one myself to keep track of work out plans. Additionally, we’ve seen some growth in the ability to pair smart phones with wearable devices that can track steps per day, heart rate, calorie intake, even blood pressure. Google, Apple, Android and more have all jumped into the trend. These types of apps are revolutionizing the level of patient engagement that can be reached by giving an easily accessible platform to monitor and adapt to on the go. Until now this is something we’ve never had access to. On top of that, trends show that patients are increasingly looking for health information online including details about their own health records. Individuals at home are demanding access to this information and tools so they can take possession of their own health. In order to make this possible, the hospitals would need an application that can push health records out to the individual, along with security in place to keep this vital information safe.
Beyond just the individual and among the 40,000 plus healthcare apps that are out there, many of them are directly involved with the operations of hospitals and healthcare organizations. Applications that run on the wired and wireless network infrastructures of a hospital, which are arguably amongst the most intricate and complicated networks in the world, have experienced this same application evolution. We all knew it was coming, as we are aware of the fact that hospital networks maintain performance, latency, and security for thousands of diverse and complex devices. These medical devices all access specific medical applications from their own data center.
The evolution that the organizational applications are undergoing is quite similar. These apps are now extending out to the individual patient/user in ways that have never occurred before. In addition to the individuals at home demanding access to their health records at home, the EHRs can now send doctors notifications regarding the patients that they are visiting with once they access their records. This helps to ensure that the doctor won’t miss a beat when the time for a check-up comes around, and if there was something they needed to perform, like a blood test, flu shot, or procedures for a more advanced and critical treatment. Therefore, these applications are forcing the doctors to be more engaged in each of their patients’ medical records and history, and eliminate potential slip-ups that can easily occur when a doctor has hundreds of patients.
Although we are already experiencing this huge boost in patient engagement drawn directly from the creation of healthcare applications, the full potential has still yet to be realized. According to IMS, in order for this revolution to completely take form, “there must be more recognition of the role apps can play in healthcare by payers, providers, regulators and policymakers; security and privacy guidelines and assurances established among providers, patients and app developers; a systematic evaluation of apps to inform their appropriate use; and the effective integration of apps with other aspects of patient care.” These are certainly exciting times we’re living in, and the processes are becoming incredibly simplified for us. Once these steps are taken, individualized patient care and engagement will reach a complete revolution due to this technological innovation. When something as beneficial as this becomes this easy to use, everyone gets involved.