Healthcare providers are very interested in educating patients in order to help them become more engaged in their care and also adhere to treatment plans. Healthcare providers have coined a term, the Patient Journey, to describe the necessary steps in a treatment plan to ensure long-term health. The patient journey is different for each individual and for each medical condition, but the general flow is as follows:
Healthcare providers are looking to use mobile and digital technologies to enhance the patient-caregiver feedback loop and provide real-time, ubiquitous information that will help providers to respond dynamically to the needs of patients. Healthcare professionals ultimately want to provide better, more actionable information for their patients that is more interactive, personalized and informational than the traditional waiting room 3-fold brochure.
Providers are also looking for tools that will support productive patient-physician relationships and enhance the patient journey.
Mobile and digital technologies allow for laser focus on key areas. Instead of all-inclusive health information apps, like WebMD, these applications will be dedicated to a single function. For example, major pharmaceutical companies with popular name-brand medications can build mobile apps that help consumers distinguish between counterfeit medications and the real deal. A new app that has been getting a lot of press recently is called uChek, a mobile application paired with a urine analysis kit. Patients can compare their urinalysis strips from the kit to baselines on the mobile application to determine test results.
The most important design aspect of these applications is that they are both highly sophisticated technical solutions and extremely user friendly. Sometimes, the most complex technologies are the simplest to use, and it requires complex thinking behind the scenes to build an app that is easy for the user.
Another reason why mobile technologies are attractive is because users can have the app with them at all times and it is unobtrusive and intuitive for the patient. Providers are hoping to provide a solution that will allow the patients to access info and report information at any time.
While introducing mobile technology into the healthcare field certainly opens up many opportunities to improve patient care and the patient journey, the major stumbling block right now is FDA approval. As of now, app stores like Apple’s and Google Play do not have robust app submission regulations for health and wellness applications. This means that while a certain app may be readily available for download on the app store, chances are it is not yet FDA approved.
As with all new emerging technology in the healthcare industry, the FDA must adapt to these new mobile technologies. Of course the fear is always that instead of enhancing the patient-physician relationship and feedback loop, some users may think of the application as a replacement for a doctor’s visit or for a professional opinion. It will ultimately be up to those healthcare professionals recommending medical apps to their patients to fully educate them about the proper use and possible risks of the application. On the back end, the partnership between health app creators and technology solution providers will be equally important, ensuring that the applications are compliant, quality assured and quality engineered.
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