A recent Huffington Post article takes on the subject of mobile health apps, wondering among other things if we may be overestimating the impact of these apps on patients moving forward. It’s estimated that the number of mobile health app downloads will reach 142 million globally by 2016 – up from 44 million this year.
There are two key takeaways from this article that I think are absolutely true:
- Consumers need safe, reliable, trustworthy apps to help guide their health and wellness and help them manage their chronic diseases.
- Technology will never replace the doctor/patient relationship.
The article also suggests that mobile health apps run a high risk of being downloaded and then forgotten. You and I have probably both experienced this with mobile apps – downloading, ignoring, and then eventually deleting. That’s where providers have to step in. If the patient is directed by the nurse or physician during an initial face-to-face appointment on which apps are most beneficial for their diagnosis and educated on how the app can help save them time, money and unnecessary readmissions, the stakes have suddenly been increased, making the app a more vital tool.
I can honestly say that throughout my years of doctor visits, I have never been informed by a medical team on the benefits of mobile apps or other available digital communication. I have always brought these ideas to their attention and asked questions based on my own research. I think that’s a big problem.
For the most part, patients are expected to “go it alone.” They begin by visiting a physician who may take a few moments to review the patient’s current state of health. After the consultation, the physician may assign a prescription for medication, offer some advice about adopting a healthier lifestyle, and finally, advise the patient to "check back in a month." The patient then goes to the pharmacy to fill the prescription and that’s where the physician’s support typically ends — at the very point treatment begins.
TeleVox recently completed a study that revealed beyond-the-clinic digital care, such as emails, apps, texts, or voicemail is exactly the type of experience U.S. consumers want and expect from their doctors.
A little information, support, and overall engagement goes a long way.