The Future of Mobile in Health Care


In light of the FCC’s February 5 announcement launching a major initative to drive the development of more health-related mobile apps, I gave a presentation today on the future of mobile in health care. While I’m going to save some portions of it just for my client, I thought I’d share some of the more compelling highlights.

Where People Get Health Information
(Pew Internet Survey)

-83% ask a friend or family member

-82% use the internet in general

-66% ask a health professional, such as a doctor

-54% use blogs or community sites

-39% seek out information on social networking sites

-33% listen to health related podcasts

-28% seek out information on Twitter

Incidentally, I’m no exception here. When I walked into furniture and broke my pinky toe a while back the first thing I did was call my mom and describe it to her to see if she thought it was broken. (Mom is not a health care provider). The second thing I did was post a question on Facebook to see if my friends (none of whom are doctors) thought it was broken.

Mobile App Market In General

(CTIA research)
-Expected global spending on apps in 2010: $6.2b

-App stores will exceed 4.5b downloads in 2010

-8 out of 10 are free to end users

-Free downloads will account for 82% of all downloads in 2010

-And, for 87% of all downloads in 2013

Who Uses their Phones to Access the Web

-23% of 13-24 year olds

-66% of 25-54 year olds

-12% of 55+

What I find interesting about the above is that the majority of 13-24 year olds can’t afford smart phones. So, 23% of this group using mobile web is a significant amount. Imagine how that will grow as smart phones become more affordable.

Patient Perspectives on Mobile Health Care 
(CTIA research)

-8 out of 10 Americans want mobile health care services

-Many believe wireless/mobile exams could replace visits

-One-fourth would use mobile health services instead of going to the doctor

-1 out of 5 would upgrade their existing wireless plan to participate

-57% feel they are still top of mind with their doctor

-57% feel mobile health is safe

-54% feel gives them peace of mind

-51% believe it makes medical care easier

-51% feel it gives them more freedom and choice

Physician Perspectives on Mobile Health Care

-80% of physicians want more investment in mobile health care

-89% of specialists want continued investment

-They believe those most helped by mobile are:

– patients in rural areas (51%)

– chronic patients (48%)

– retired/medicare patients (38%)

Some of the Most Popular Healthcare Apps

WebMD’s Symptom Checker and Emergency Preparedness
– Much like WebMd’s site this app allows you to “self-diagnose” based on rich content to identify illness and conditions based on common symptoms.

MSripts’ Prescription Refill and Drug Compatibility App

– To help patients avoid wait times at the pharmacy by ordering refills through mobile devices and receiving alerts when scripts are ready.

Healthagen’s iTriage

– Like webMd’s symptom checker, but this also employs GSP capabilities to point patients to the nearest doctor, specialist or health facility.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

– The popular book has been transformed into a mobile app that keeps you current on what to expect (and do) during each stage of pregnancy right down to the day.

Beware of “Sketch” Apps
With 5,000 health-related mobile apps out there, we are seeing a lot of apps that are – as my teenaged niece would say – “so sketch.” Most of the scam apps are not free.

For example:

Houston Dermatologist, Greg Pearson’s AcneApp claims to “cure acne while you talk” by emitting alternating bursts of red (anti- inflammatory) and blue (anti- bacterial) light from the iPhone’s screen. Users hold light to face for two minutes per side.

Dr. Pearson describes the app as “NOT FDA approved and designed with some science in mind.” The app goes for $2.99 and despite being ridiculed by the media, people are buying it.

The Challenge Is
As more scam apps enter the space, people will become more distrustful of mobile health.

The Opportunity Is

Brands that have a trusted name will be able to rise above the “sketch” apps and will capture more downloads as patients turn to the brands they know.

Some Popular Physican Apps
A lot of health care providers are using apps as well, including:

MedScape’s Drug Interaction Checker

– This app allows health care professionals to instantly confirm any drug interactions and/or compatibility in the palms of their hands.

Osirix’s Radiology App

– Allows health care professionals to view and share radiology results for consultation and even diasnosis via mobile devices.

QXMD’s ECG Guide
– Allows health care professionals to quickly review normal and unusual ECGs.

Health care providers are also increasingly using mobile technology for virtual consultations, remote patient care and monitoring, and electronic record sharing and this will only increase with the FCC’s plans to drive more adoption of mobile health. So, very interesting things are to come in this space.

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