Mobile applications are a viable business strategy for many different industries, including the field of medicine. For developers, sophisticated mobile application development tools and rapidly advancing technology open a galaxy of possibilities. Though applications can solely be time wasters, many serve as invaluable assets. Doctors are now able to use apps to help keep their patients healthy.
The good news
The concept behind medical applications is sound. Instead of doctors trying to get patients to take notes about their heart rate, blood pressure, medication times and other vital health information, mobile apps help streamline the organizational process. Medical apps are based on popular mobile tools patients are familiar with, including calorie trackers and exercise monitors. Instead of tracking the patient’s fitness needs, however, medical apps have the potential to help manage medical conditions and improve patients’ quality of life.
While medical apps are certainly a boon to doctors and patients alike, a few complications keep them from being released to the market quite yet. One of the main hitches is the fact that the applications have to be functional and free of any major problems. In the same way a pacemaker with faulty software would be catastrophic, a prescribed medical monitoring application that doesn’t work correctly could lead to very real issues. The doctor could also find herself vulnerable to lawsuits as well.
The time and testing medical app require adds to the development cycle; widespread use of mobile technology for medical history tracking is still in the future. One app currently in use is made by WellDoc, who offers the DiabetesManager cross-platform application. The app can interact with glucose readers through a wireless connection or through manual input. It also provides expert suggestions based on a patient’s sugar levels and food s/he is eating. Inputted information helps keep the patient’s blood sugar levels at an appropriate level and tracks the potential of sugar spikes that could cause huge issues.
DiabetesManager is not free or priced at 99 cents the way many standard mobile apps are. Instead, it has a monthly cost of $100. Compared to cell phone games and calendar apps, the cost is quite high, but insurance companies may step in to cover some of the application’s cost. The FDA has approved DiabetesManager, noting it’s a medical device and not a standard smartphone app.
Medical applications take a great deal of money and time to develop, whether they are intended for doctors or patients. The FDA’s involvement in the approval process adds even more time. However, through testing and rigorous standards are a great selling point for medical apps. The FDA is developing a complete list of guidelines to which medical applications will need to adhere in order to meet federal standards. Ideally, these guidelines will facilitate the creation of numerous apps designed to make patients’ and doctors’ lives easier.
Although it takes time and effort to approve medical apps, as well as encourage the population to use them, their use will likely become an important medical supplement to face-to-face care. The next hurdle might be convincing senior patients to go mobile with their healthcare. The release and approval of more apps, however, will likely help change hesitant minds.