In the past few years, mobile technology has changed the way consumers interact with their service providers. Whether ordering a cab to one’s exact location within minutes or getting groceries delivered in a matter of hours, there seems to be an app for everything. The healthcare industry is no exception to this trend. Mobile health data helps patients, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies in new and innovative ways.
Mobile technology is changing the way doctors and patients interact with both the healthcare system and with one another. The fitness wearables trend has put the power of transforming one’s health and body into the hands of the consumer. People use wearables and other mobile devices to get constant data feedback on their heart rate, steps, calories burned, etc. Many of these apps then organize and share this information in an easy-to-understand way, allowing consumers to make better decisions about their health. Patients can also use new apps, such as ZocDoc, which provide up-to-date appointment availability, enabling users to schedule visits with doctors as quickly and conveniently as possible. In fact, even more specific apps exist, such as Castlight, which compares prices of MRIs and other tests to find the most affordable options in a given location.1
Healthcare professionals also use a number of different apps to improve patient care and treatment. Indeed, there are entire sections of Apple’s App Store devoted to apps for doctors.2 Perhaps one of the most useful features in many of these apps is the ability to look up information right at the patient’s bedside. Quickly searching for certain symptoms can save crucial time for both the doctor and patient and may facilitate a more accurate diagnosis. Moreover, certain apps will soon offer on-the-go monitoring functionality, providing live feeds of patients’ vitals right to their doctors’ mobile devices. This continuous supply of information can optimize patient care and improve the healthcare system on a wider scale.
These mobile technologies are not just changing the way healthcare works in developed countries. Mobile has been incredibly helpful in transforming and improving the healthcare systems of many third world countries. This technology helps serve underprivileged societies by “addressing challenges such as reducing material and infant mortality rates, combatting infectious disease, creating awareness of HIV and delivering nutritional health and treatment for a variety of health conditions remotely.”3 CliniPAK360 is one app that has transformed treatment in Africa. The app works by allowing healthcare workers to input symptoms and information about a patient, which is then used to analyze and diagnose serious conditions. Other hospitals in Africa are using phones or tablets with preloaded medical information, which can be critical for saving time and effort in diagnosing and treating patients.
Mobile is also changing the way that healthcare marketers target consumers. Instead of simply “pushing pills,” companies now make their brands interactive and interesting to consumers, helping to change their brand image. Mobile apps help patients track their own health and progress and supply pharma companies with more data to effectively target consumers. Merck created MerckEngage, which provides health tracking services and has over 100,000 users from whom Merck can collect new insights and information. Geisinger Health System also launched an app on a small scale that studied “metrics like patient acceptance and treatment adherence to decide which solutions to these issues could be deployed on a broader scale” based on data they received from the app. Additionally, mobile apps can also help with medicine adherence by understanding which patients do not follow their prescription instructions and targeting them with more precise reminders. Pharma companies can leverage this data revolution to obtain the most accurate and useful marketing information yet.4
I have seen this mobile technology in my short time here at Ogilvy CommonHealth. In the past few weeks, I have helped work on an app which tracks a user’s sleep habits through either manual input or syncing up with a wearable device like Jawbone or Fitbit. This app is mutually beneficial as it helps the owners collect data on sleep habits nationwide, and helps users achieve greater awareness of their sleeping behaviors.
The central theme among all of these healthcare apps is optimization, data collection, and a better understanding of disease perception. Large databases of patient and consumer information now exist, which can be analyzed to streamline and improve patient experience, outcome, and overall health.5 It remains unclear how far these apps can take us, or if a piece of technology will ever be as good as a doctor’s intuition, but the continuing innovations provide a glimpse into the future of healthcare.