September 8, 2021

Advantages and Pending Issues of Apps in the Health Sector

Do you know how many Kcal you burn when exercising or if a particular food contains an ingredient to which you are intolerant or allergic? Consult the drug leaflet; receive alerts about taking medication – the possibilities offered by applying new technologies to health and well-being are enormous.

The proliferation of applications (apps) and wearables (watches, bracelets, and other “technology to wear”) has come from the hand of a phenomenon to which all the agents involved in the health sector have had to adapt: ​​mHealth, which the WHO defines as the practice of medicine and public health supported by mobile devices (smartphones, patient monitoring devices, personal digital assistants and other wireless devices).

In the specific case of digital health applications, the data shows that they have not only come to stay but that their use has exploded in recent times. Just take a tour of the iTunes Store or Play Store to check the large stock available. A study estimates that the number of these health applications worldwide exceeds 318,000 (almost double the number available two years ago), to which about 200 increase every day). Therefore, it is necessary to build an app for healthcare service providers.

Advantages at all levels

The possibilities that these apps offer both to patients and doctors, and other agents involved in health care are many. But, the main one is that they have proven to be an excellent tool to achieve the “empowerment” of the patient. Now patients take an active part in their health care and the treatment and follow-up of the disease.

Precisely, this self-management of the disease is one of the primary challenges for health authorities, especially given the evidence of the growing aging of the population and the increase in chronic patients expected in the coming years. But, in addition, its use and progressive implementation in most health services have other added benefits:

  • They improve treatment adherencethe use of health apps leads to a more informed patient and, therefore, more predisposed to follow the treatment guidelines.
  • More significant (and better) follow-up: One of these tools’ significant advantages is the possibility that the data that the patient collects in their apps or wearables can send to the doctor or the health care team. It can also become part of the medical record, which also favors an increasingly personalized medicine. Regarding this, those responsible for the Association of Researchers in eHealth ( AIES ) point out that the reliable and effective devices integrated into health care allow a “5P” medicine: preventive, personalized, predictive, participatory, and population-based.
  • Optimization of services and reduction of costs: the IQVIA Institute report reflects how the use of these digital health applications in five patient populations has shown a reduction in the use of intensive care (prevention of diabetes, asthma, cardiac rehabilitation, and rehabilitation pulmonary), which could save the US health system around 7,000 million dollars (about 5,954 million euros) a year. It represents approximately 1.4% of the total cost generated by these patient populations. Suppose this level of savings extrapolates to the entire North American healthcare spending item. In that case, it estimates that the annual savings that achieve would be about 46,000 million dollars (around 39,130 ​​million euros).
  • It favors better care coordination: another of the “collateral effects” of the use of apps is the possibility that all the professionals and services involved in patient care share their data, which leads to a new approach to coordination of these actors and favors the continuity of care, an aspect of which, as commented in the National Congress of Health Care for Chronic Patients, there is much evidence that, in addition to improving self-care and adherence, it reduces decompensations, hospital admissions and complications in chronic patients.

About the author 

Peter Hatch

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