Mobile phone adoption of health and fitness applications has been steadily increasing in the last decade - assisted by manufacturers increasing the advanced technology such as sensors supported by Artificial Intelligence within the phone to allow fitness conscious users to monitor the progress and impact of training and for those concerned more generally about their wellbeing.
Technology has moved on dramatically, and the uses are much more sophisticated whilst operating less invasively - often in the background without much interaction from the user. The question is, how is it being used, and what is the future for monitoring health through our mobile devices?
According to a study by the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps (ORCHA)[i] in July this year, nearly half (47%) of those studied said they are already engaged with a mobile health app. It also found that 60% of GPs recommend apps to their patients to help them manage their health in new and innovative ways, proving that digital health apps appear to be carving themselves a future in the NHS and private sector.
Through our extensive research at electronRx, we have been liaising with healthcare professionals and large industrial players to identify potential applications of mobile technology and the impact this can have on improving patient care and reducing emergency department overcrowding and GP waiting lists. Suffice to say, that digital technologies are widely considered the answer to this ongoing issue that is putting unbearable pressure on the health sector.
For digital adoption to be considered more widely by the NHS, for example, the technology will need to advance to a point where we go beyond applications and evaluate the data we can obtain about the patient. The technology will be required to act as a 'Doctor in Your Pocket', collecting the patient's vital signs and making this data available to the healthcare professionals safely and securely while making it understandable and relatable to the user.
What are the benefits of a Doctor in Your Pocket?
At electronRx, our work is focused on developing an API solution that integrates with a camera and sensors in the patient's smartphone to analyse key health metrics, including temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, and respiration. Obtaining these metrics requires a patient to have multiple monitoring devices at home -at a significant cost. They would rely on the user connecting via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, which is challenging for older patients or those with special educational needs. In addition, it is vital that any technology is approved by regulatory bodies to make it universal and ubiquitous with the credibility and trust it requires by both patient, healthcare services and organisations that adopt it.
What is the answer to this? We believe it is in integrated technologies at the point of sale. There is an inherent trust in technologies provided to us by mobile phone manufacturers. As we have seen with fitness technologies, when the application is readily available at purchase, we observe a dramatic increase in engagement and overall trust.
The Future is Integrated Technology
It is now down to mobile phone companies and manufacturers for the Doctor in Your Pocket to become a reality and get the momentum to revolutionise healthcare systems worldwide. Asking GPs, consultants, or nursing staff to request a patient - especially one not a keen adopter of technology, such as an elderly or vulnerable person – to download and install technology would be a mammoth task. Therefore, to make the necessary impact, we may rely on this technology being available as soon as the user first turns on their new mobile device.
There is an incredible opportunity for an innovative and progressive mobile device provider to adopt this high impact approach and give back to society by delivering against ESG goals by reducing the impact on the environment of device production and increasing their social value score. ORCHA's research found that 68% of people think that digital health apps should be used within the NHS – an advancement in the possibilities for mobile healthcare could well improve that number. It also proves that the public is ready to take more control of their health and wellbeing, which will not go unnoticed by healthcare providers. Combined with the 60% of GPs referring patients to mobile support, the potential market impact for the company that introduces innovative technologies could revolutionise the mobile device market like never before.
As interest mounted in our new technology, it became apparent that it could have much wider-reaching possibilities across many sectors, including health insurance. We sparked debate recently that such technology could create the world's first Health/Medical Insurance Black Box to revolutionise underwriting and assessments of risk using real-time data about the patient. Similarly, the pharmaceutical industry could, for the first time, have access to real-time patient data that could help to alter drug use - improving the efficacy of products – or in developing new ones.
Considering the above, the company will use digital healthcare and other applications if new devices are manufactured with the technology; it could revolutionise the company's market penetration as patients could be encouraged by their healthcare provider or insurance company to consider the technology.
Who will be first past the post and begin the journey to the digitisation of healthcare, where we alter our futures forever?
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