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The rise of digital healthcare: How can we benefit?

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If you’re the owner of a smartphone, and chances are that you are, then you’ll likely know just how many different apps are available to download. Whether you use an app for banking, for ordering food, for planning a holiday or even just to listen to music – you can’t miss the fact that there’s an app for just about everything.

But what about the apps that have been developed to help us get on top of our health? Research suggests that in today’s current health app market, there are over 318,500 different health apps available, with around 200 new apps added to the market every day.

As the fast-paced digital industry and the sometimes-slow-paced healthcare industry continue to collide, the marketplace is being well and truly disrupted. So, what does this mean for patients and those people who want to make better-informed choices about their health? Can technology and mobile apps really help us to get fitter and healthier? We think so – and here’s why.

The effort to adopt digital health tools has progressed significantly

Clinical evidence for health app efficacy has grown substantially – and furthermore, health apps have also shown clinical benefits across a broad array of conditions. According to IQVIA, the use of digital health apps in just 5 patient populations – diabetes prevention, diabetes care, asthma, cardiac rehabilitation and pulmonary rehabilitation – could actually save the US healthcare system an estimated $7 billion per year.

In fact, most of the cost savings are derived from the reduction of hospital admissions and emergency departments – so if this level of savings could be extrapolated across the whole national health expenditure, savings of $46 could be achieved.

Mobile app trends are changing industry norms

As development trends continue to take over the industry, mobile health apps are leaving no stone left unturned – the significance of these apps is growing at great speed. Digital healthcare is a sphere where everyone wants to make a contribution, all the while understanding patients’ wants and needs, and aiming to exceed their expectations.

For example, more than half of health consumers would like to be able to use their smartphones more to interact with healthcare providers; this mobile presence can help healthcare providers to succeed in an era where patients are empowered to help in the management of their own care.

Healthcare apps can be divided into two main categories: those focused on wellness management – which make it easy to track and modify lifestyle behaviours – and those focused on health condition management – apps which provide information on conditions and enable access to care. The majority of mobile health apps are general wellness related, however, the number of condition management apps is increasing rapidly – and they’re now thought to represent 40% of all health-related apps.

More transparent, patient-centred standards for digital therapies have emerged

So as the number of health apps continues to grow, what steps are app developers and owners taking to stand out from the crowd, whilst putting patient care first?

There are now more companies which follow a research programme with increasing quality of evidence, which is suitable and backs up the claims being made for the app in question. This includes observational studies which show the benefits of digital therapy with real-world-evidence, randomised and controlled trials, and research programmed which addresses the data gathered from both domains.

Producing medical apps in a customer-centric way and redeveloping them helps patients feel empowered to work with medical professionals treat their disease through a pleasant experience, which can ultimately lead to increased app engagement and therefore improved clinical outcomes.

 


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