What Are the Most Common Types of mHealth Applications and Who Develops Them?
What type of pill reminder do you use? A sticky note on the wall? Your partner? Your memory? Today, getting reminders to take medication is as simple as downloading an app. mHealth, or mobile health, is rapidly making its way into our healthy lives.
According to the Global Observatory for eHealth (GOe), mHealth is a medical and public health practice supported by mobile devices: phones, patient monitoring devices, and other wireless devices.
Why is mHealth such a big deal?
GBI Research indicates that 64% of medical practitioners are using mHealth solutions on a monthly basis and 78% of mobile device users are taking an interest in these solutions. According to research2guidance, the mHealth app market is projected to grow by 15% year-over-year to reach a value of $31 billion by 2020.
While interest in mHealth is high, it’s obvious that the technology isn’t quite as reliable as it could be due to obstacles such as data privacy, security, relevance, and the ability to integrate technologies into provider systems.
But even though there are still glitches to overcome, mHealth at its current basic level can already offer benefits for both patients and practitioners.
Four ways mobile healthcare benefits patients and practitioners
Here are four significant advantages of mHealth solutions that are driving the healthcare industry to a new level.
1. mHealth increases patient engagement
Due to heavy workloads and numerous distractions, people find it difficult to pay close attention to their health. Sometimes it’s enough to remind patients to track their weight, blood pressure, sleep, and medications. This is exactly what mobile apps are good at.
According to a study by Ketchum, there’s been a positive shift in people’s attitudes toward using mobile technologies to manage their personal health. Healthcare professionals also note that mHealth apps not only engage patients but also empower them to claim responsibility for their own health.
2. mHealth reduces the costs for healthcare services
Many types of healthcare apps, especially for managing chronic diseases, allow patients not only to track different aspects of their health conditions but also to share data directly with their physicians. Physicians, in turn, can examine results and get in touch with patients by phone if there’s no need for them to visit the office.
By reducing the frequency of office visits, both parties win. Patients save money and time, while medical facilities save on paperwork and resources.
3. mHealth improves the efficiency of patient treatment
To effectively treat conditions either chronic or temporary, patients must return to medical providers for various check-ups, laboratory tests, or medications. People often forget about scheduled appointments, lose the results of lab tests, or don’t follow medication plans. Sometimes, a doctor can even forget to remind a patient about an upcoming checkup or simply miss a scheduled appointment. No matter who is at fault, human factors can compromise the effectiveness of treatment.
mHealth solutions provide healthcare professionals with quick access to data, reduce the number of administrative errors, and allow constant patient monitoring. In addition, mobile technologies can provide practitioners with tools that support clinical decision-making: drug references, medical textbooks, disease diagnoses, and medical calculator apps.
mHealth tools allow patients to access personal health records (PHRs) and easily manage their conditions and medication plans.
4. mHealth helps build strong relationships between patients and practitioners
The key to establishing a relationship of trust between patients and healthcare professionals is online communication. Numerous mobile solutions like mHealth messengers and patient portals help patients always be in touch with their doctors.
Ketchum conducted a survey to figure out how many patients are using mHealth messaging solutions to communicate with their healthcare providers. They found that 58% of respondents (~2000 patients) are already using these solutions.
What are the most common types of mHealth apps and who develops them?
The market for health-related applications is getting crowded. According to research2guidance, the major app stores contain about 260,000 mHealth applications. Let's see how these solutions can be categorized and what outsourcing companies have expertise in developing them.
General health and fitness apps
These apps help you go on a diet, sleep better, eat healthy, and work out. They include:
general health tracking apps (Apple Health, HealthTap)
mind and brain management apps (Headspace, Happify)
weight management apps (Lose It!, MyFitnessPal)
fitness and nutrition apps (Sworkit, Strava, Active, Athleats)
Archer Software is another service provider with expertise developing health applications. Their works include an app for tracking sleep, energy, and mood, and an app for tracking your pet’s demeanor, appetite, skin condition, sociability, and so on.
Chronic care management apps
Unfortunately, we live in a world where nobody is completely healthy. It’s hard to believe, but globally about 126 million people visit hospitals every day. Patients with chronic conditions should visit doctors throughout their lives, and they need to constantly track their health.
mHealth solutions that facilitate the management of chronic diseases allow patients to see their personal care plans, track their conditions, share data with practitioners, and contact care providers without needing to visit a hospital or medical center. Some apps also offer medication management.
In fact, about 56% of all mHealth app users are managing chronic illnesses. Apps for managing chronic illnesses include the following types:
mental health and behavioral disorder management apps (DBT Diary Card and Skills Coach, Magic Window – Living Pictures, Operation Reach Out)
diabetes management apps (mySugr, MyNetDiary)
blood pressure and ECG monitoring apps (Blood Pressure Monitor – Family Lite, AliveCor)
cancer therapy management apps (Pocket Cancer Care Guide, My Chemo Brain)
other chronic care management apps (allergy tracking apps like WebMD Allergy, etc.)
Medication management apps
It happens quite often that patients forget to take medications, take meds incorrectly, or don’t complete their courses of treatment. Unfortunately, doctors can't keep an eye on what patients are doing outside the office.
Medication management apps are quite simple to use. Just tell them how much of what medications you need to take. When it’s time to take your pills, the app will notify you. The most well-known medication tracking apps are Medisafe Pill Reminder and AlarMeds.
If you’re looking for a reliable partner to collaborate with on developing a medication management app, contact Archer Software. They’ve developed Medwatch, an iOS app that not only allows users to track medication but also monitors patients’ feelings and medication dosages, generates reports, and sends those reports to doctors via email.
Women’s health apps
In autumn 2014, Apple released its Health app. Health was well received by Apple’s audience, except for...women. The Health app didn’t include a period tracker.
But when we talk about women’s health apps, we don’t only mean apps that track periods, but also apps that can help women get pregnant and then track numerous aspects of pregnancy.
pregnancy apps (Ovia, Sprout Pregnancy)
fertility apps (Flo, Glow, Ovia Fertility)
breastfeeding apps (Baby Nursing, Pump Log)
other women's health apps (apps for tracking activity, sleep, and stress level)
The Innovecs team worked with Cambridge scientists on developing a fertility tracking app aimed at increasing a couple’s likelihood of conceiving a child.
Medical applications (for professionals)
Healthcare professionals use mobile apps to improve their efficiency, productivity, and accuracy.
Apps for medical professionals meet needs for information and time management, health record maintenance and access, communications and consulting, reference and information gathering, patient management and monitoring, clinical decision-making, and medical education and training.
medical reference apps (Epocrates, Medscape)
continuing medical education (CME) apps (Medscape CME & Education)
patient management and monitoring apps (Doctor ON GO)
communication and consulting apps (Sermo, Doximity)
We’d like to introduce several companies that have worked on diverse solutions for healthcare professionals.
The Ciklum engineering team has collaborated with Neopanda, a Chicago-based social enterprise. Neopanda wanted to reduce the number of deaths of newborns. They came up with an idea for a wearable device that measures, tracks, and displays four important vital signs of newborns in distress. Ciklum helped Neopanda successfully deliver the project.
SoftServe has a lot of experience delivering healthcare solutions, some of which have involved mHealth. For example, the SoftServe team developed a mobile home care app that offers real-time mobile information exchange between healthcare providers and patients. This app works both online and offline.
Another project developed by SoftServe is a connected healthcare Android application. This app was developed for Outcomes-Based Healthcare (OBH) – data specialists who provide tools for adopting outcome-based approaches to healthcare. OBH came to SoftServe with the idea of developing an app that could passively measure patient-reported outcomes for people with diabetes without having to resort to paper or online questionnaires. To facilitate the process of Patient-Reported-Outcomes (PRO) data collection, SoftServe developed the OBH 360 app that captures data using sensors already integrated into patients’ smartphones.
AltexSoft is another company that has developed healthcare solutions. They’ve worked with Dutch dentist Michiel Allessie on creating an app that can diagnose a difficult tooth disease called bruxism. AltexSoft developed a complex sound recognition algorithm using data analytics and machine learning. The app can distinguish tooth grinding from other sounds.
In this article, we’ve tried to not only categorize available health-related apps but also show you why mHealth technology has become an indispensable part of our hyper-connected world and how it’s poised to change the way we access healthcare services.