The potential for smartphones in healthcare is still yet to be fully realized, however the popularity of health and fitness apps is continuing to grow. Currently, about 58% of smartphone users have downloaded a fitness or health app to track their physical activity and food intake and people are also starting to download apps to manage their health. As a result, healthcare organisations are starting to use them to interact with consumers.
From AsthmaSense and Diabetes Tracker to Hello Heart, health apps allow users to monitor and record symptoms in order to take control of their illness. According to recent research, two-thirds of Americans have actually shown a preference for digital health management – with studies suggesting this number will continue to grow as the number of health app downloads continues to increase. Recent studies even predict that as health apps get more popular, fertility apps will soon assist with 75% of all pregnancies, with two thirds of women saying they would happily use a mobile app to manage health related issues.
Recent innovations mean that devices previously only kept in hospitals or GP surgeries are now portable and cheap enough to be located in people’s homes, allowing people with disabilities or long-term conditions to perform tasks or activities made harder for them by their condition. One example is smart heart monitor Eko DUO, the first cardiac monitor to combine a digital stethoscope and ECG technology for in-clinic and at-home monitoring. It’s a compact, hand held device that offers unprecedented insights into cardiac function to enable remote monitoring and diagnosis by a clinician or specialist. Another example is HealthPatch MD, a band which patients can wear over their forearm that detects heart rate, temperature, breathing and any sudden movements so doctors can keep tabs on their patients’ vital information without having to do rounds, transforming the lives of patients and HCPs alike.
Digital health records
Electronic records for healthcare are already widely used, but are currently stored on centralised databases which are secured and provided by a small number of suppliers. However, in the future technology could transform the way health records are stored, giving patients or clinicians complete control over who sees the data. The main argument here is that the system would be more resilient and faster, and that the technology could also be applied to create accurate records of health interventions. In fact, in some areas this is already happening – in a partnership between the NHS Islington Clinical Commissioning Group and Islington Council, more than 200,000 people will be given direct access to their health records via a digital database early next year, allowing patients to participate in the management of their healthcare and leading to more personalised outcomes.
In-home technology is set to continue to transform the lives of patients as wearable technology such as push buttons, fall sensors or alarm pendants allow them to go safely back to their homes sooner, rather than staying in hospital longer than necessary. In-home technology is also great for individuals with long-term health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, because it allows them to remain home rather than spending long periods of their lives in hospitals as inpatients or waiting for outpatient appointments. If that wasn’t enough, not only will the enhancement of in-home technology be great for patients, but it will also be a solution to the ongoing NHS bed crisis.
It might sound a bit Matrix, but bear with us here: one company has developed sensor technology so small that it can be swallowed and combined with drugs in pill form. When the pill dissolves in the stomach, the sensor is activated and data is transmitted to a wearable patch on the outside of the body and onto an app which enables both patients and their clinicians to see how well the patient is adhering to their prescription. When you think that 50% of medication for long-term conditions isn’t taken as prescribed, this could transform the way patients take medication and make them more engaged in their treatment, as well as helping to monitor and remind those with dementia and Parkinson’s disease who struggle to remember to take their medication.
As new technologies continue to develop, new opportunities for both healthcare professionals and patients arise, improving the accuracy and usefulness of information gathered and changing how and where care is delivered as well as offering new ways to prevent, predict, detect and treat illness.
If you are thinking about implementing new technology into your next medical market research project why not download our guide to mobile to ensure your next study is a success.