Technology has transformed every aspect of our lives both personal and professional. But its impact on healthcare is something we don’t always entirely appreciate, at least not until it affects us or a close loved one personally.
Think of healthcare technology and you tend to envisage large, complicated pieces of hospital equipment, or perhaps leading edge innovations such as virtual reality for perfecting surgical techniques or artificial intelligence for superior diagnoses. Yet the most transformative aspects of healthcare tech are more likely to center around simple mobile apps that anyone can use.
From casinos to cinemas – where would we be without our phones?
It is easy to be cynical about the “smartphone generation” and its inability to function without checking social media feeds at least every three minutes. But let’s be honest, most of us, regardless of age, would feel a little lost without our cellphones.
Using them for telephone calls is only the start of it. Music fans keep their entire collections on their handsets, while for US casino enthusiasts, the best reviewed gambling apps can match anything you can find in the casinos of Las Vegas or Atlantic City.
Back in the distant past, Apple ran an advertising campaign for its new iPhone 3 with the tagline “There’s an app for that.” Little did they know just how prophetic those words would seem 14 years later.
Changing healthcare for the better
Yes, there are apps that can literally save lives by early detection of life-threatening symptoms and so on. But sometimes the greatest impacts come from relatively mundane applications that make life that bit easier or safer for thousands, or millions, of people. Here are a few pertinent examples:
Choose your practitioner with zero stress
We’ve all been in that situation on the phone to the local doctor’s office. Dr Alpha isn’t available but I can book you in with Dr Gamma right away, shall I go ahead? With a mobile app, you are never put on the spot in this way. Patients can check the app to understand everything they need to know before choosing a practitioner, including prices, reviews, specialties and so on.
Remote consultations and diagnostics
These apps can be used to provide accurate diagnoses without delay and without the patient having to leave his or her home. As well as making life easier, it provides the opportunity to initiate therapies faster, potentially saving lives.
Easy access to medical reports
Both patients and doctors can gain immediate access to medical information and view reports wherever they might be. It’s particularly useful for those who are managing complex conditions that might demand the expertise of multiple healthcare experts.
Simple integration with wearable devices
Wearables are more than just a trend for fitness nuts. They can provide vital real-time information for people living with long-term health conditions that need regular monitoring, such as diabetes or hypertension. Wearables can be linked to mobile apps in seconds, and data from Statista suggests that by the end of this year, a billion health-related wearables will be hooked up to the internet.
Timely responses to emergencies
In an emergency, time is critical. Mobile applications can provide numerous benefits beyond the obvious. As well as allowing patients to make immediate contact with emergency services, they can provide useful information for the patent such as who will be attending, how close they are and what steps the patient should take in the meantime.
Balancing cost against benefits is a challenge that healthcare professionals have been facing since time immemorial. Making so many healthcare features and services accessible via mobile apps has helped healthcare institutions large and small to deliver significant cost reductions. That can only be good news for all concerned, as it frees up more budget to invest in additional technological innovations. It is a classic example of a virtuous circle.
This is only the beginning
Technological development never stands still, and we have only just started to explore the power of mobile apps in the healthcare sector. Looking ahead, the following areas will open up worlds of new possibilities:
AI for fully automated consultations by mobile app
IoT healthcare networks, using apps to connect remotely with medical devices
Blockchain healthcare systems that use peer-to-peer databases to maintain verifiable records of transactions.
Augmented Reality mobile apps to improve teaching and training of medical practitioners in everything from patient care to surgery.
These are exciting times in healthcare, and the continued development of mobile apps will bring benefits for all