Mobile health applications are on the rise. These software applications are geared toward mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Because they aim to provide medical health services that are portable and thus, go where the patient goes, they are part of a movement, appropriately titled mHealth, in mobile healthcare.
Many of the features of mHealth apps are quite convenient and will be discussed throughout this article. E-prescription software, for example, which is often one of the features that’s included with such apps, helps reduce prescription errors, speeds up refills, and helps to streamline the insurance verification process.
In this present day and age of pandemics and the resultingly, increased fear that patients rightfully have of physically going out to enter doctor’s practices, the safety that these mHealth applications provide, can prove quite invaluable.
Let’s now discuss some of the “do’s” of mobile health applications.
The Do’s of Mobile Health Applications
- Convenient: 77% of Americans own smartphones. The fact that a mHealth application is geared toward such a device, makes these apps primed for popularity. These applications are convenient not just for the accessibility and portability factors, but also for the functions and the associated purposes they serve.
There are more than 318,000 mHealth applications currently available on the market. This is obviously a popular and growing sector of software development. The mHealth app market value is set to be at about 102.35 billion dollars by 2023. Certainly, there is a mHealth application out there for everybody’s need with this kind of availability.
Users can easily review pre and post-visit instructions, should a telehealth visit not be available and an in-person visit is, or has been required. Also, certain mHealth application functions include being able to set reminders for appointments or when to take prescription medication, along with the amount of medication to take. Also, being able to access medical records in real-time is quite convenient.
- Informative: Mobile devices are becoming ever more prevalent and utilized by many in the healthcare field. Amongst a survey of healthcare professionals and students, more than 80% of respondents stated that they utilized mobile devices to communicate with one another via text message, e-mails, and telephone conversations. This statistic is significant as it proves that with that high a percentage of utilization of mobile devices being used by medical professionals and students, that there is a large percentage of this population that would have quick and easy access to mHealth software applications.
Anytime there is communication among professionals and students alike, there is going to inevitably be the result of the proliferation of information. With educated professionals and understudies communicating back and forth, valuable and informative information can quickly spread. Certain mHealth applications have built-in quizzes to test the knowledge of medical professionals and students, alike, therefore reinforcing knowledge or pinpointing areas where the further study of a particular subject is likely required. Certainly then, there is a strong case to download and use at least one or two mHealth applications if you’re a medical professional or student. Doing so will help one to keep informed.
- Environmentally Conscious: Unless you’ve been hiding out in a cave for the past several decades, “going green” is a well sought after goal for many of us, as anything which helps out our environment is going to be a wise decision for all of us. After all, we each have to share this planet, and who doesn’t want a healthier planet, with plenty of oxygen to breath, clean oceans, and plenty of resources still available for us all to share?
Using mHealth applications helps conserve trees by enabling individuals and organizations to take a more paperless route. By storing records, prescriptions, and other information in a digital format, there is less of a need than for paper printouts. Plus, as a bonus by going paperless, there is the introduction of saving money. Less ink and toner, along with both a reduced need for paper and the warehouse space to store these documents will directly result in significant cost savings.
The two aforementioned reasons to use mHealth apps are great advantages and just further the argument leaning toward putting these applications into practice, sooner rather than later.
- Greater Accuracy: Mobile Health applications improve accuracy and reduce errors, across the board, for many things. Not only is electronic appointment setting and the associated reminder via push notification convenient, but it is also practical as there’s no room left for error. No longer will a patient confuse 12:30 p.m. with noon, for example, and the same goes for the doctor’s office.
Electronic prescription records in digital form also improve accuracy for the types and amounts of prescribed medications. Written prescriptions can often prove hard to read and there is also the factor that exists of human error. Maybe a pharmacist or doctor will type in an incorrect prescription dosage amount, for example, and as these records move from one location to another in a written format, the chances for these types of errors increase. When the record starts in digital form and moves to different locations in digital format, the likelihood of the record being incorrect is virtually nonexistent, assuming of course there is a level of security in place and no foul play, involved. Of course, such nefarious acts aren’t solely for digital forms of information, but could certainly exist in a paper record format, as well.
The Don’ts of Mobile Health Applications
- Lack of Regulation: One of the greatest selling points of mHealth apps also has its counter. The fact that it’s easy to access mHealth apps in the first place, tends to make people overly reliant on them. This can mean fewer visits to the doctor’s office, when a doctor’s office visit may be warranted.
Also, the FDA views mHealth applications as low-risk and thus doesn’t prioritize them heavily. With well over 300,000 mHealth apps on the market, the FDA has only approved a small fraction of them. With very little testing in place to catch issues these apps may have, greater concerns can arrive in time. This may make it easier for app developers to quickly release their software but could prove detrimental to healthcare professionals and patients, after the fact.
In summary, there is a growing mHealth application market available to us all. For the most part, that’s a good thing. There are several reasons to welcome mHealth application use into all of our lives. They’re convenient, informative, good for the environment, and also practical. However, this market sector is still in its infancy, so do bear this in mind and research heavily which mHealth applications you decide to download and use.