Seven ways healthcare apps have transformed patient health
According to research done by Manhattan Research and published in "Taking the Pulse," 72 percent of physicians own a tablet device. To help these doctors take full advantage of their mobile devices, mobile developers have released thousands of health apps for both medical professionals and patients. Here are seven ways that apps have transformed health care.Reducing Visits to the Doctor
Apps provide users with information that used to only be available in medical reference guides. Apps such as SymptomMD are available making it possible for users to enter in symptoms and get an idea of what they could possibly be experiencing before heading to the doctor. They can even help users decide whether they even need to see a doctor by determining if the symptoms are serious enough to need a doctor's exam.Giving Patients Tools to Take Control of Their Own Health
For sufferers of food allergies, it can be difficult sometimes to know what food is okay to eat and what has ingredients that could cause problems—and not all food allergens are called out on the label. With the app MyFoodFacts, users can use the app to scan the barcodes of food products to instantly see if that food contains ingredients that could make them sick.Providing Ability to Perform At-Home Tests
No longer do patients need to go to the doctor to know what's going on with their bodies. With apps like AliveECG, users can have an echocardiogram whenever and wherever. With the AliveCor heart monitor attachment and the free app, users can test for irregular heart rhythms. Having a portable heart monitor allows patients reassurance that everything is a-okay. Interestingly, the new Galaxy S5 from Samsung has a heart-rate monitor built-in to the phone, and is available from T-Mobile.Adding the Ability to Record Exams
Using the capabilities that already exist in smartphones, doctors are able to more efficiently track patients' progress. For example, with the CellScope app and the Oto attachment, doctors can turn their phone into an otoscope that has the ability to record video during the ear exam. This is especially helpful when helping children because doctors are able to discuss the diagnosis with the parents while showing them the footage.Providing Quick Reference to Health Professionals
Instead of getting out a copy of "Physician's Desk Reference" every time doctors need to reference drug information, apps are now available that allow users to search by ailment or drug type. One of the most-used apps for doctors and patients is Epocrates, which can check for drug interactions.Helping Doctors Diagnose
The iHealth Wireless Pulse Oximeter uses a sensor on your finger to read blood oxygen saturation, pulse rate and Perfusion Index, so you can share the results with your doctor. It connects with your smartphone wirelessly through Bluetooth to the free iHealth SpO2 app. It could be used to see how your body handles high impact sports or recreational activities as well as helping to diagnose sleep apnea.
Isabel is another app that can be useful in the hands of health care professionals. It's an app that was developed by the parents of Isabel Maude, who almost died when she was three years old because of a misdiagnosis. Although it can't take the place of a doctor, it can be a great tool for doctors in diagnosing patients.Saving Patients Money
Seeing a doctor is not cheap. Depending on your co-pay, the cost can add up. There are apps out there can help save money. One such example is iTriage, which not only helps users figure out what their symptoms mean, but it will then direct users to the best place in their area for treatment. This free app is highly rated and can help users determine if they need to go to the ER or if urgent care is better. For situations that don't require immediate care, the app helps users find clinics in the area that specialize in the problem.
With so many options for mobile apps, it's no wonder that doctors are using mobile devices more and more in their offices and that many patients are finding health apps that make their lives easier.
Getting ready for cloud data-driven healthcare
As healthcare continues to recognise the value of data and digital transformation, many organisations are relying on the cloud to make their future-forward and data-centric thinking a reality. In fact, the global healthcare cloud computing market was valued at approximately $18 billion and is expected to generate around $61 billion USD by 2025.
At the forefront of these changes is the rapid adoption of cloud-based, or software-as-a-service (SaaS), applications. These apps can be used to handle patient interactions, track prescriptions, care, billing and more, and the insights derived from this important data can vastly improve operations, procurement and courses of treatment. However, before healthcare organisations can begin to dream about a true data-driven future, they have to deal with a data-driven dilemma: compliance.
Meeting regulation requirements
It’s no secret that healthcare is a highly regulated industry when it comes to data and privacy – and rightfully so. Patient records contain extremely sensitive data that, if changed or erased, could cost someone their life. This is why healthcare systems rely on legacy technologies, like Cerner and Epic EHRs, to manage patient information – the industry knows the vendors put an emphasis on making them as secure as possible.
Yet when SaaS applications are introduced and data starts being moved into them, compliance gets complicated. For example, every time a new application is introduced into an organisation, that organisation must have the vendor complete a BAA (Business Associate Agreement). This agreement essentially puts the responsibility for the safety of patients’ information — maintaining appropriate safeguards and complying with regulations — on the vendor.
However, even with these agreements in place, healthcare systems still are at risk of failing to meet compliance requirements. To comply with HIPAA, U.S. Food and Drug Administration 21 CFR Part 11 and other regulations that stipulate the need to exercise best practices to keep electronic patient data safe, healthcare organisations must maintain comprehensive audit trails – something that gets increasingly difficult when data sits in an application that resides in the vendor’s infrastructure.
Additionally, data often does not stay in the applications – instead healthcare users download, save and copy it into other business intelligence tools, creating data sprawl across the organisation and exposing patient privacy to greater risk.
With so many of these tools that are meant to spur growth and more effective care creating compliance challenges, it begs the question: how can healthcare organisations take advantage of the data they have without risking non-compliance?
Yes, healthcare organisations can adhere to regulations while also getting valuable insights from the wealth of data they have available. However, to help do this, organisations must own their data. This means data must be backed up and stored in an environment that they have control over, rather than in the SaaS vendors’ applications.
Backing up historical SaaS application data directly from an app into an organisation’s own secure cloud infrastructure, such as AWS or Microsoft Azure, makes it easier, and less costly, to maintain a digital chain of custody – or a trail of the different touchpoints of data. This not only increases the visibility and auditability of that data, but organisations can then set appropriate controls around who can access the data.
Likewise, having data from these apps located in one central, easily accessible location can decrease the number of copies floating around an organisation, reducing the surface area of exposure while also making it easier for organisations to securely pull data into business intelligence tools.
When healthcare providers have unfettered access to all their historical data, the possibilities for growth and insights are endless. For example, having ownership and ready access to authorised data can help organisations further implement and support outcome-based care. Insights enabled by this data will help inform diagnoses, prescriptions, treatment plans and more, which benefits not only the patient, but the healthcare ecosystem as a whole.
To keep optimising and improving care, healthcare systems must take advantage of new tools like SaaS applications. By backing up and owning their historical SaaS application data, they can do so while minimising the risk to patient privacy or compliance requirements. Having this ownership and access can propel healthcare organisations to be more data-driven – creating better outcomes for everyone.