In healthcare today, both doctors and patients are beginning to adopt the trend of medical apps, supported by cell phones, computers, tablets, and other medical devices. Software developers are continuously developing new and simple apps that incorporate mobile health and fulfill individuals’ respective needs. According to the World Health Organization, there are over 1.5 million medical devices available today. What’s more, medical applications that can function across different platforms have made it possible for such devices to connect with one another. This, in turn, has lead doctors to be able to diagnose and treat patients remotely.
Since the year 2013, the scope of medical apps has started increasing, magnifying the importance of information gathering, clinical decision-making, health record maintenance and access, and medical education and training. With more than 97,000 health- and fitness-related apps available and over four million downloads per day, it is hard to deny its rising popularity. Some of the most popular and useful medical apps available for doctors include the following:
- Medscape: An application used to look up drug information, check the disease reference tool, read up on the latest medical news, and much more
- Epocrates: An application used to look up drug information, find referrals, and calculate patient measurements, such as body mass index
- Doximity: An application used to communicate with other doctors within your network and to follow the latest news within your area of expertise
- UpToDate: An application filled with medical knowledge that is used to answer patient clinical questions
- Read by QxMD: An application that allows you to read and download articles, journals, and studies from various medical sources
- BMJ Best Practice: An application that combines the latest research evidence with step-by-step approaches to diagnosing and treating patient cases
- Virtual Practice for Doctors: An application with advanced features that offers a great space to communicate with patients, including video chat and remote patient monitoring
- Red Cross First Aid: An application that provides step-by-step instructions on first aid scenarios and safety tips regarding natural disasters
- Calculate: An application used to help make informed decisions regarding diagnosis and treatment; this app is particularly useful in the field of cardiology, oncology, and obstetrics
- Omnio: An application that includes a library reference where you can research and store relevant medical information
- DynaMed: An application created by doctors for doctors that provides useful information on different topics and disease references
- Nice BNF: An application that offers practical, up-to-date information on prescribing and administering medications
- Figure 1: An application used to share medical images and cases among doctors for the purpose of medical teaching and learning
- Touch Surgery: An application that allows surgeons to practice performing surgical procedures in realistic 3D animations before setting foot in an operating room
- Medtimer: An accurate and simple application that allows you to time both heart rate (HR) and respiratory rate (RR).
As a doctor, medical apps can help you to:
- Manage, monitor, and access patients’ health records
- Manage and access useful medical information
- Track patient vitals
- Better communicate with patients and build doctor-patient relationships
- Better manage your time
- Collect relevant, up-to-date information on the healthcare industry
- Provide patients with consultation tips and advice
- Improve your medical education and training
Medical apps also help your patients to:
- Make appointments to see you
- Keep track of their symptoms
- Keep track of their medications and when to take them
- Check their blood sugar levels and vital signs
Now more than ever, medical apps are beneficial for both doctors and patients. Recent surveys show over 40% of doctors admit that patients can benefit from the use of medical apps, and nearly 15% even discuss the importance of medical apps with their patients. Being a healthcare professional yourself, medical apps can help you to provide quality clinical care, all the while encouraging your patients to recognize the importance of healthy behaviors.
More and more patients are beginning to understand the efficiency of medical apps on their smartphones. Mobile devices, such as smartphones, are resourceful approaches for collecting health data. In fact, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has announced the introduction of a new program that uses data collected from sensors on the mobile devices to monitor soldiers' health. The idea behind this program is to find a way to use the available data without asking soldiers to do anything more. Currently, this program is in its early stages of development, and while it is focused solely on soldiers’ health, it is beginning to show promise in its implementation into the general population.
Advancements in medical software, such as downloadable apps, have made it easier to activate and run medical devices connected to a smartphone or computer. For instance, the Ultrasound Virtual Medical device is a portable handheld device that can be connected to a smartphone or computer, making it easier to view, analyze, and transfer medical data. Nowadays, such advancements allow you to offer your patients accurate diagnoses and appropriate treatment plans. They take care of the major aspects, giving you more time to attend to more patients. In the same way, medical apps on mobile devices now allow you to look up test results, clinical records, and even prescribe relevant medications.
With the rise of technology, the future of healthcare will continue to change in more ways than one. To start, there will be an increased patient demand for medical apps. Patients strive for increased control over their healthcare, and by next year, over 50% of all smartphone users will have a medical app on their cell phones. Medical apps will also help patients save money. Doctor visits are expensive, and although nothing can replace a face-to-face doctor consultation, virtual appointments are now made possible. This does not necessarily mean less business for you as a doctor, but rather a greater opportunity to offer your services in more ways than one.
Medical apps will revolutionize physical examinations. A smartphone physical presentation is the entire buzz on being a potential substitution for a traditional physical. Currently, medical apps are being designed to allow full-body analysis, blood pressure analysis, body sounds reading, visualization, and more. This will be of great advantage not only to you, but to your patients as well. They can learn to better manage their health and recognize unwanted signs and symptoms. The doctor-patient relationship will also be more cooperative: medical apps will allow your patients to find potential causes for their symptoms and speed up doctor-patient consultations. This, in turn, will save you both time and make your job easier. Such medical apps will also remind your patients to take their medications and monitor their own health on a regular basis, thus offering them more control and responsibility. Medical apps are becoming a whole new approach to practicing medicine. Hopefully, as such apps become adopted more and more, they will save time and energy, offer quality monitoring solutions, speed up the process of diagnosis, empower patients, and, most importantly, increase patient safety and recovery.
It doesn’t matter if you are a doctor, patient, or another individual associated with the healthcare industry—using a medical app is designed to help you face easier solutions to different problems. The healthcare industry will continue to improve on a daily basis, and with the continuous advancement in technology, software developers are likely to keep up this trend. Findings predict that medical apps on mobile devices will increase at a rate of 25% per year in the foreseeable future. What’s more, by 2018, it is estimated that, globally, half of the 3.4 billion mobile device users will download a medical app. Therefore, medical apps should be used efficiently as facilitators in healthcare, rather than replacements to clinical medicine. As a doctor, what is your opinion of medical apps? Do you believe they are the future of healthcare?