Over the past 50 years, the healthcare industry has evolved from house visits to e-visits, as healthcare professionals have become more reliant on technology to meet the demand for electronic and mobile access to patient records, as well as to ease the pressure that the aging population is putting on the industry as a whole.
The demand for access to patient information electronically – by both the practitioner and the patient – as well as the ability to deliver health-related information via mobile and multimedia technologies, including mobile phones, tablets and wireless infrastructure, is causing the demand for the technology to facilitate this need. The healthcare mobile app development market has become a $6.3 billion industry, and it’s expected to grow to more than $20 billion by 2018.
Americans Are Ready for the Shift to Electronic and Mobile Access to Healthcare
Most of us are guilty of searching the Web to look up information about an ailment or asking our Facebook friends to recommend a good general practitioner. The need is there and we are ready for it, but demand is far exceeding supply.
- Eighty percent of Americans obtain health data online, and that health information is the third most popular online pursuit.
- One in five Americans use social media websites as a source of health information, with 94 percent using Facebook. One in four respondents saying that social media is “very likely” or “likely” to impact their future health decisions.
- Seventy-three percent of Americans would prefer to use a secure online communication solution to make it easier to get lab results, request appointments, pay medical bills, and communicate with their doctor’s office.
With patients demanding an interactive experience for their healthcare needs, and practitioners requiring more flexibility to provide service to their patients, these demands are putting pressure on the industry to evolve to meet with demand. But it has been a slow-moving machine. Since electronic health records were introduced 30 years ago, adoption has been slow. In 2010, the National Physicians Survey found that 39% of practicing physicians used electronic medical records (EMR). This likely means that 61% of physicians are using paper files for their patient records.
With our dependency on devices, as well the rate at which technology is evolving, there are five trends that will make it possible for developers to make significant leaps and bounds in the healthcare mobile app development industry.
5 Trends Creating Demand for Healthcare Mobile App Development
1. Electronic Medical Records (EMR)
While it’s true that the healthcare industry is evolving from file folders to electronic mobile records, it’s not happening as fast as you would expect. As mentioned above, electronic health records have existed for more than 30 years, but in 2010, only 39% of practicing physicians used EMR. A sign of what’s to come – 82% of second-year residents reported that they intend to use EMR. Considering the degree with which millennials are comfortable with social media, as well as their ease in obtaining their information online, it’s no surprise that this may have an impact on the growth of EMR.
EMR — the ability to store patient records electronically, rather than in a paper file — is paving the way for other healthcare trends. Mobile apps and software make it possible for practitioners to view patient information electronically via a computer or a mobile device and allows them to track data over time, monitor patients and improve the overall care within the practice. This allows for better collaboration and information sharing between practitioners in the same office.
2. Electronic Health Records (EHR) and Interoperability Between Medical Centers
The lack of interoperability between doctors, medical centers and hospitals is compromising patient safety and causing a strain on services. Without interoperability, practitioners are unable to get access to patient records in a timely manner, causing a delay in patient stays. Clinician fatigue and increased costs for in-term plug-and-play interoperability tools to make the devices speak to one another are putting pressure on the demand for systems to exchange patient data in a timely manner – regardless of their location or systems in place.
Electronic Health Records allow for information to be shared beyond the office, so that patient information can be shared with other health care providers, like specialists and hospitals – thereby decreasing the amount of interoperability that currently exists in the healthcare system. The patient’s information follows him or her from a doctor’s office, to hospital, to care home – regardless of location. Systems and mobile apps to meet this demand will have a significant impact on the industry. Healthcare mobile app development will make it possible for doctors’ offices, specialists and hospitals to have access to real-time patient information. Not only will having real-time access to electronic health records reduce costs, but it will save lives as interoperability will allow practitioners the ability to know a patient’s history and determine a diagnosis more quickly. Practitioners will also have the ability to access patient information from a variety of digital devices. Physicians may access their files from a laptop in their office, but specialty doctors may require access to patient information remotely, possibly from hospitals.
3. Demand for E-Visits – the New House Call
In a PriceWaterhouseCooper study, half of doctors believe e-visits could replace more than 10% of in-office patient appointments, and roughly 75% of doctors said they would prescribe an app to help patients manage chronic diseases, such as diabetes.
Currently, many of the 600 million annual visits to general practitioner offices in the United States and Canada are for common ailments, such as rashes and coughs. Ailments of this nature can be easily diagnosed and treated with a prescription electronically.
E-visits or electronic interactions between patients and physicians through text, email, phone and video conferencing create a demand for apps that allow doctors and patients to conduct meetings remotely. This may involve doctor-patient video conferencing. But there is also a need for programs to facilitate the ability to capture patient information through forms, questionnaires and photos. This will allow the practitioner to make a diagnosis and give a prescription, all online. This will reduce costs and resource strain of in-office appointments for simple tasks such as prescription renewal.
E-visits will also satisfy mobility challenges by providing healthcare to rural areas. Online solutions that allow two-way digital communication between healthcare providers and patients can decrease healthcare costs associated with providing healthcare in rural and third-world areas. This will help alleviate pressure on the industry, as well as free up the practitioner’s time, allowing him or her to spend time with other serious patient issues.
4. mHealth – Mobile Health
mHealth is the practice of medicine and public health supported by mobile devices. The growth of the Mobile Health (mHealth) application market will reach $26 billion globally by 2017. The use of mobile devices in healthcare not only provides greater convenience for patients, but provides access to larger segments of population in rural areas of developing countries, providing greater access to healthcare.
According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), there are now over five billion wireless subscribers; over 70 percent of them reside in low- and middle-income countries. The GSM Association reports commercial wireless signals cover over 85 percent of the world’s population. mHealth will allow greater healthcare in rural areas that may not have access to proper healthcare.
With the mobile health application market projected to reach $26 billion by 2017, there is a need to provide more than 3.4 billion smartphone and tablet users with access to mHealth applications; with an estimated fifty percent of these users downloading healthcare mobile applications. According to mHIMSS, mHealth’s rapid evolution is due to the recent advances in broadband availability, mobile device innovation, and availability of applications for mobile devices. The highly regulated healthcare industry and its policies has caused a lag in advances in technology for the industry. As supply catches up with demand, mobile applications can be used to satisfy several needs in healthcare:
- Education and awareness
- Diagnostic and treatment support
- Communication and training for health workers
- Disease and epidemic outbreak tracking
- Remote monitoring
- Remote data collection
5. Private Data and HIPAA Compliance
With the increase in use of devices in healthcare – mobile devices and laptops – as well as having patient information filed electronically, we have to address the need to have solutions in place which ensure that patient data isn’t compromised. The increased use of devices makes data more susceptible to hackers, increasing the need to protect this data.
Any mobile app or software used in healthcare must be HIPAA compliant. HIPAA protects the privacy of individuals’ identifiable health information and is the governing body that sets national standards for the security of electronic protected health information.
To be HIPAA compliant, designers of mobile apps and software to be used in a health IT environment must be updated on HIPAA regulations. Once mobile devices are integrated into a practice’s electronic medical records, patient information must be encrypted and security levels must be high enough to meet privacy requirements of the organization. If practitioners are using devices, they must be password protected to ensure that unauthorized people can’t have access to the confidential information.
Whether bringing in new systems or replacing parts of legacy systems, all systems are vulnerable and require the assistance of mobile development firms for protection. Security measures such as patches, as well as applications that track relevant devices, can help organizations make sure that their technology and devices are safe from attack.
What is the Future of Healthcare Mobile App Development?
All five trends will be influential to the future of the healthcare industry. The demand and need for mobile app development in the industry is great and it will be interesting to see how healthcare mobile app development contributes to the evolution of the industry. Will supply eventually meet demand? It’s hard to tell, but we have three predictions regarding the future of mobile apps in healthcare.
Using Smartphones as Devices
Advancements in mobile apps and technology will bring apps that will turn smartphones into devices, like a heart monitor. We will see medical attachments that plug into smartphones, like arm cuffs that measure blood pressure.
Better Analysis through Big Data
Big Data will allow practitioners the ability to better evaluate patterns, view historical data and track current, real-time data to be assessed for real-time daily insight into a patient’s medical needs. Big Data, a market which is expected to reach to reach $32.4 billion in 2017 (six times the growth rate of the overall information and communication technology market) will be instrumental in the healthcare industry, providing data necessary to make more informed diagnosis for prevention to treatment, increasing efficiently and lowering costs.
More and More Mobile Apps
There are currently 17,000 medical apps available with the top 10 mobile health apps generating up to four million free and 300,000 paid downloads per day. As consumers continue to rely on mobile apps for health and fitness, we will continue to see this number grow.
Venice Group Consulting helps the healthcare industry leverage technology to meet the demand for digital, online access to patient data. Through our applications, we provide the healthcare industry with solutions for very complex application processes that many thought impossible. VCG provides clients with a very transparent development planning and deployment process, delivering high value through its design and low-risk, cost-savings “Hybrid near-shore” approach. If you want to learn more about how VCG used the Hybrid nearshore approach to build an innovative successful iOS App, download our case study here. If you’re interested in becoming another one of our happy clients, contact an expert today.