Healthcare Technology Featured Article

April 29, 2021

How Mobile Apps Continue to Impact the Healthcare Industry

The Food and Drug Administration states that a health app is mobile software that diagnoses, tracks, or treats disease. According to Research and Markets, the global mobile healthcare market was worth $4.2 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $20.7 billion by 2027. This trajectory shows no signs of slowing down and the “medical monitoring” and “nutrition and fitness” segments show particular growth.  

There’s a myriad of healthcare apps available on platforms like Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store. It’s clear that these healthcare apps play an important role in the modern health industry and will continue to evolve over the next several decades. Apps like MySugr allow individuals with diabetes to track their blood sugar and carbs, making it easy to monitor holistic habits over time. And apps like Teladoc offer 24/7 virtual access to therapists from around the world.  

The healthcare industry has been historically antiquated, particularly when it comes to maintaining and managing healthcare records. While every industry has been revolutionized by technology, healthcare consistently falls behind. There are several reasons why. According to Kenneth Arrow, who published “Uncertainty and the Welfare Economics of Medical Care” in the American Economic Review, there are five distortions that prevent the healthcare market from streamlining operations:  

  1. Asymmetric information. Because medical knowledge is so complicated, the patient isn’t informed enough to make calculated decisions about their own health.  
  2. Unpredictable demand. Demand for healthcare changes depending on world trends and occurrences.  
  3. Lack of trust. Patients cannot always decide who will perform life-altering surgeries and don't know if the provided surgeon will perform accordingly.  
  4. Tough barrier to entry. Because a high level of training is required for medical professionals, a limited number of doctors is produced each year.  
  5. Complex payment structure. Shopping around for medical prices is essentially nonexistent, and because most payments are made through insurers, there’s very little transparency regarding costs. 

    The mobile technology sector aims to address each of these concerns. For example, ZocDoc provides extensive reviews of medical professionals and makes it easy for users to choose a doctor they believe is best for them. This could help alleviate some of the inherent distrust that patients have towards assigned doctors.  

    Blockchain technology (the same technology used to facilitate cryptocurrency on the market) also has the power to have a major impact on the healthcare industry. An award-winning Deloitte whitepaper stated that blockchain has the potential to connect fragmented systems in healthcare, improve efficiency, and provide better support for patients. It would allow for a patient-centered model where individuals have greater access to their personal health data at better costs.  

    Mobile apps are also addressing a segment of the healthcare industry that sat on the backburner for decades: mental health. A research study conducted by Milliman found that the physical and behavioral conditions comprised a vast majority of healthcare costs but that many institutions were failing to acknowledge how mental health and brain chemistry lead to, exacerbated, or compounded those conditions.  

    Because of this, there are many individuals who get tested for symptoms like chronic heartburn and still see normal results when tested. Even with negative reports and a seemingly clean bill of health, those individuals still feel symptoms. In many cases, this is because there is an underlying mental disorder, like depression, negatively impacting the body.  

    For instance, let’s say an individual gets in a car accident. The first course of action is to address any acute pain. Unfortunately, there are many cases where chronic or mental pain isn’t properly addressed post-care. According to the de La Garza Law Group, a personal injury lawyer in Houston, Texas, many car accident victims suffer from mental and emotional disorders after they leave the hospital.  

    If those patients were treated appropriately, beginning with the brain and mental health, healthcare costs would severely diminish and the patience would experience better results quicker. Mental health disorders like depression and PTSD, when experienced over a long period of time, can have harmful effects on cortisol levels, heart rate, and blood pressure.  

    But with the proliferation of mental health apps, more people are getting educated on the importance of mental health. TalkSpace, MoodMission, and Sanvello are all apps dedicated to bringing awareness to mental health and helping individuals alleviate their symptoms from the core; the mind. Moreover, these apps provide more personalized care and are less likely to apply a “band aid” that only temporarily relieves patients.  

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