Smartphones, telephones such as the iPhone or Blackberry that can run programs and connect to the Internet in addition to their more mundane uses, are increasingly being used as venues for healthcare information technology.
According to a recent, nationwide study of more than 100 physicians in acute care and ambulatory environments, 94 percent of physicians interviewed were using smartphones to communicate, manage personal/business workflows, and access information including medical reference materials. Of these, 44 percent were using Apple iPhones while 25 percent were using RIM Blackberries.Spyglass Consulting Group conducted the study “Point of Care Communications for Physicians.
”One healthcare application is Healthagen LCC’s iTriage, an iPhone app that allows a person to access a database for self-diagnosis and find the right providers for treatment. iTriage is used by many medical professionals such as psychologists, EMTs, nurses, athletic trainers, veterinarians and also by people who simply want to learn more about specific symptoms. “Prior to applications being introduced, there existed a huge information gap between doctor and patients,” said Peter Hudson, MD, the CEO of Healthagen. “With mobile information, a user can access concise information about their symptom, diseases or medical procedure very quickly, then, with iTriage, be directed to the most appropriate level of care. Having this information at your fingertips is invaluable as evidenced by the testimonials that we receive each day.”
Another application is Quadion’s Health Services Locator, which lists health centers, doctors, drugstores, and others affiliated with the user’s health insurance company and healthcare plan, and then provides directions using Google Maps and the iPhone’s GPS position.
“It is particularly useful when a user is on the road, in another city, or without access to a computer, and needs to find a drugstore or physician to attend to an immediate need,” said Quadion CEO Javier Delgado. He noted the product was similar to other locator apps, though Quadion’s Health Services Locator has no direct competitor.
As Hudson sees it, the use of healthcare smartphone apps is “very much a trend. It’s been a missing component of healthcare for quite a while. Consumers want information when they want it and healthcare applications, like iTriage give them what they want so that they can make important decisions about their health.”
“Healthcare vendors and providers are just starting to see the value of mobile apps,” said Charles Epstein, the president of Backbone, Inc, a marketing communications, public relations and business development firm specializing in healthcare information technology. “We expect that the ubiquity of smartphones, the emergence of telehealth, and the FCC's decision to help health providers gain high- speed Internet will dramatically increase the number of healthcare apps that are developed and sold.” Backbone, Inc. recently partnered with Quadion to create healthcare apps.
Healthcare apps such as iTriage and the Health Services Locator may be useful in the field of telehealth. “Those who use apps for chronic conditions and remote monitoring can benefit from the more general information provided in healthcare apps,” said Hudson. “Regarding the future of healthcare delivery, we feel that iTriage will be able to reduce healthcare costs by providing ‘most appropriate’ provider information, along with cost estimates for treatment.”
“We are just at the cusp of realizing the long-awaited vision of ‘connected health,’ as mobile apps extend the reach and capabilities of conventional technology (and traditional methodologies) to achieve several core goals: improved patient adherence, engagement, and clinical outcomes,” said Epstein.