So you have picked up your mother’s weekly subscription from the pharmacy and each allotment of pills is grouped by day and blister-packed but, this time there is something new with the medication, a sensor tablet that communicates to a patch your mother wears. The patch then communicates to a mobile app on your mother’s mobile phone informing the doctor and you that your mother has taken her medication. The patch also reports on your mother’s sleep patterns and physical activity levels.
Welcome to the world of virtual care and remote patient monitoring and to the “Doctor in your Pocket”.
There are 13,000 health apps available for consumers in Apple’s App Store with the largest category being cardio fitness. While there are pockets of innovation, for the most part healthcare groups have been slow to adopt mobile technology and launch initiatives. It was only in the last year that the American Medical Association developed its first app – a billing code app. According to Digitas Health there are only a handful of pharmaceutical companies who have mobile optimized websites. So the healthcare industry is ripe for innovative mobile technology solutions to drive greater engagement and ROI.
Here are just a few examples of mobile health services in action:
1. Mobile Apps for clinical trials – data is collected and analysis is done through a mobile app that makes the trial more efficient
2. SMS Appointment Reminders –provides improved communications with patients reducing no shows. A study in the Irish Medical Journal found text messages significantly reduced appointment ‘no-shows’ at a rate of almost 30%. In fact in the age demo of 16-30 year olds there was a 63% percent reduction in non- attendance.
4. Mobile Phone as Eye Doctor – an attachment and special software turns a smart phone into an Eye Doctor to detect cataracts providing an inexpensive diagnostic tool to prevent blindness in India.
5. iPad Virtual Doctors Office – Allows a doctor to keep in touch remotely with his office. This is an app that provides flexible functionality in accessing patient data, appointments, and secure messaging.
6. iPad Surgery – helped surgeons understand the patients anatomy using Osirix. They could zoom in on a cancerous lesion, rotate it etc..
The mobile phone is an intimate gadget and its driving innovation in how healthcare is delivered. This is great for doctors, pharmacists, lab technicians, and patients. Imagine an obstetrician on vacation in the Bahamas remotely monitoring his tribe of pregnant patients via a mobile health app and sending a text: “give your husband 30 minutes longer to sleep; the baby won’t be with us for a while yet”. Maybe there could be a cool ring tone to wake up the luddite when its time. It could begin….”This is an important message from “The Doctor in your Pocket”…get up, YOU ARE HAVING A BABY!!”