Cyndi Williams, CEO and founder at Quin, discusses why the digital and healthcare industries need to combine forces to harness the full potential health apps have to offer.
There are more than 300,000 health-related apps available from leading app stores worldwide – a number which has more than doubled in the past five years. In line with this astonishing growth, the number of digital health apps has also doubled since 2015, and is expected to be worth over $100 billion by 2023.
Whereas the traditional medical R&D process is incredibly expensive and time-consuming, app development offers an exciting alternative. Although the smartphone may never supersede medical devices, it is nonetheless an invaluable repository of lifestyle and behavioural data with immense promise for improving insights, outcomes and patient quality of life.
However, the exponential rise of mobile health apps (mHealth apps) now faces several significant obstacles from the rising cost of development to institutional reluctance and limitations to integration and interoperability.
It’s time for a paradigm shift
As the populations of developed countries continue to skew older, chronic conditions become increasingly common and the shortage of healthcare workers continues, the requirement for further innovation in the industry also increases. The medical industry is built upon innovations that improve life expectancy, quality of life, and offer diagnostic and treatment options. mHealth apps offer the potential to not only assist with these, but also aid in improving healthcare costs and efficiency.
Medical health apps augment existing systems to enable earlier interventions, greater patient autonomy and significant improvements to quality of life. In the long term, this represents a paradigm shift from crisis intervention to patient-led preventative medicine.
Consumer interest is already here
While there is some resistance to this movement in the medical industry, healthcare consumers overwhelmingly support the increased use of digital technology. In a recent survey in the US, 75% of consumers reported that technology already played an important role in managing their health, while the number of healthcare consumers using mHealth apps jumped by 32% between 2014 and 2018, according to Accenture.
Accenture’s research also found that the 88% were comfortable sharing data gathered by wearable health devices with a medical professional, offering an early example of the beneficial interplay between digital monitoring and conventional medicine.
Changing life for people with diabetes
Diabetes is one such condition where mHealth apps can be hugely beneficial to an individual’s lifestyle management. People with diabetes constantly make decisions that directly affect their physical health and attempt to balance dozens of interconnected factors that determine the appropriate insulin dose. For this reason, the mHealth App Economics’ 2017 study listed diabetes among the top three areas with the greatest market potential for digital health solutions, but market penetration has been limited. There is still a lot of potential for innovators who are willing to dig deep and understand more about how mHealth apps can positively influence the lives of people with diabetes.
For instance, many people with diabetes use continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) which already sync data to their phone. Combining this data with the other data that smartphones often collect – sleep, steps, exercise, and even diet, weight and menstruation, if the person uses other apps to track these – could produce significantly smarter and more personal dosage diagnosis for insulin.
The upcoming app Quin is an example of the next generation of intelligent, smartphone-based medical health apps. The app synthesises the user’s data to help them make informed, independent decisions on insulin dosing and lifestyle management based on previous experiences and day-to-day habits.
An exciting road ahead – if we choose to take it
The proliferation of medical health apps represents truly personalised medicine, as patients’ phones passively log data in real-time and use their computational power to turn that raw information into actionable insights. From diagnosis to prevention and treatment, these affordable, scalable and ever-improving mobile health apps represent a revolution in medicine that will improve the quality of all our lives.