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Can Mobile Health Technologies Transform Healthcare?

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In 2018, consumers worldwide downloaded more than 400 million medical apps, according to mobile data and analytics provider App Annie. That's up 15% from two years prior. Within the United States, growth in medical app downloads surged 35% in 2018. I'm not sure U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius could have envisioned that level of adoption of mobile health (i.e., mHealth) when she referred to it as "the biggest technology breakthrough of our time" during a 2011 speech at the mHealth Summit.

Of course, downloads alone don't necessarily tell much of the story. After all, as TechJury notes, the average person has 80 apps installed on their phone, but only uses nine daily and 30 each month. But for many people, mobile health apps are having a significant impact on their lives.

There is substantial evidence that many of these technologies are altering how clinicians and consumers approach healthcare. In fact, a 2018 Zebra Technologies survey of acute care hospitals found that nearly all hospitals estimate that mobile devices will be used at the bedside by nurses, physicians, pharmacists, and other members of the care team by 2022.

Furthermore, as we previously discussed, mHealth technologies can deliver significant benefits, including expanding access to critical information that improves care coordination, enhancing patient engagement, and helping clinicians connect with patients outside the exam room.

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Our Top 5 Mobile Health Technologies

Here are five mobile health technologies that we love and some information on their transformative effects.

1. Mobile MIM

If you know much about the history of medical apps, Mobile MIM should sound familiar. It was one of the first medical applications to debut in Apple's AppStore, launching in 2008. As a Mass Device report notes, it was also the first-ever mobile radiology app cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Despite its "old" age, Mobile MIM is still highly regarded. Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News rated it as one of the best science apps in 2018, stating, "Mobile MIM is a useful app for those in the medical field, particularly those that find themselves in need of analyzing patient data without access to typical means of examining images."

2. Touch Surgery

With more than a reported 2.5 million-plus downloads, Touch Surgery is an app that, in short, allows its users to practice surgery anywhere. It includes more than 150 procedures from a variety of specialties. The app also helps surgeons become more familiar with surgical tools and equipment.

Touch Surgery has been widely embraced. In January, Safe Surgery 2020 worked with Digital Surgery, the developers of Touch Surgery, to launch simulation training in Tanzania. As a press release from Safe Surgery 2020 stated, "The future of surgical education will be driven by technological innovation. By ensuring innovations are co-created with leaders and surgical teams in low- and middle-income countries and adapted to the realities on the ground, we can create a world where everyone can access life-transforming, life-saving surgery."

Earlier this year, the American Society of Anesthesiologists and Digital Surgery launched a new simulation activity concerning neuromuscular monitoring on the app. And in 2018, the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy collaborated with Digital Surgery to convert endoscopic procedural videos into interactive mini-simulations on the Touch Surgery app.

3. Insight Optics

This relatively newer mobile health technology is generating some buzz, and rightfully so. Millions of patients at risk for preventable vision loss fail to undergo an eye examination by a specialist. Insight Optics hopes to help reduce this figure.

As MobiHealthNews notes, "Insight Optics uses mobile imaging technology to allow primary care physicians to record fundus examinations — a critical tool in preventative and diagnostic healthcare — and forward results to ophthalmologists for review." This is accomplished via the pairing of an ophthalmoscope compatible with a smartphone camera. Last year, Mobile App Daily highlighted this app, noting that it … "empowers users with information on whether or not they need to see an eye specialist."

4. SkinVision

This is another newish app that taps into the impressive power of smartphone cameras. Described as a "skin cancer melanoma detection app," usage is simple. As Health Tech Digital explains, "SkinVision enables the user to take a photo of their skin spots via a smartphone camera. Within 30 seconds, they will receive a risk indication on skin cancer risk level ranging low, medium, or high. In the case of a high-risk rating, the user will receive advice within 48 hours from SkinVision advising them on next steps to take."

SkinVision claims nearly 1.2 million users and more than 27,000 skin cancers identified. As a CNET article notes, a study showed that the app's performance is not strong enough to replace a professional exam. However, according to the CNET article, the researchers behind the study stated, "We see the main potential for (such) smartphone applications in the improvement of the patient-doctor communication by making [users] aware of the need of skin cancer screening and by giving a basis of interaction."

5. Meds 360°

We would be remiss if we didn't highlight our own mobile health technology. Meds 360° is a medication management app that puts prescribing and pharmacy pickup history for 265 million-plus patients into the hands of clinicians. The interface cleanly organizes crucial patient and medication information, including therapeutic duplications, drug strength changes, prescribers, fill dates, regimen gaps, and nefarious controlled substance/opioid activities. Benefits include reductions in medication errors; faster, more accurate medication reconciliation; improved patient safety; and enhanced compliance with requirements.

You don't need to take our word for it. As Aalap Modi, director of clinical care services for CPS Telepharmacy, said, "Cureatr Meds 360° has enabled our pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to practice at the top of their license. They are alerted to drug-to-drug interactions, duplicate therapies, and opioid seeking behaviors in real-time, allowing them to contact patients right away, reducing the risk of adverse drug events."

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