What are the most important advancements in healthcare? Electronic medical records? Telemedicine? One possible answer might surprise you: consumer smartphone apps. The small programs you download to and run on a mobile handset are showing promise of becoming a new force in the management and practice of healthcare. Those who have or are pursuing an MBA in healthcare should pay attention, because apps are at the vanguard of a revolution.
Just take a look at Apple’s HealthKit. This is a set of capabilities in the company’s iOS mobile operating system that developers can tap into to monitor, store, and use health information about consumers. HealthKit provides a dashboard that the user can view for information on some basic healthcare metrics that an iPhone can monitor and record via built-in sensors. App developer can then use a programming interface to share data between HealthKit and their own software.
The total collection can become a powerful tool for healthcare. Some of the information that can be shown on the dashboard include heart rate, calories burned, blood sugar, and cholesterol. More importantly, the information can be made available, with the consumer’s permission, to other partners like the Mayo Clinic and Epic, the manufacturer of healthcare facility management software. Other big industry names are likely to sign on, as well. There have been rumors of discussions with Mount Sinai, the Cleveland Clinic, and Johns Hopkins, in addition to Epic competitor Allscripts.
Apple also isn’t the only name in the healthcare app race. Google, which makes the smartphone market leading Android operating system, has also announced its healthcare app development kit and support for healthcare sensors. Given Google’s size and prominence, it is likely to land its own list of prominent partners.
The potential in consumer healthcare app ecosystems is significant. Information that providers typically only collect on an intermittent basis could be regularly made available. Pull together enough of that data and providers could potentially catch early signs of illness, disease, or complications of existing conditions, allowing more timely intervention and the potential of better outcomes. Connect the data to a primary care physician, clinic, or hospital, and the result could be better follow-up on recent care and procedures. Anonymize the data with permission, run analyses, and you have the basis for large-scale studies.
All this information could also be useful to provider organizations that want to also examine the effectiveness of their procedures and protocols. Comparing regular monitored data to clinical records can help executives both monitor the effectiveness of their care and the efficiency of their organizations.
But making use of apps, smartphones, and the data they can collect and analyze requires significant management involvement. Whether getting permission from patients, identifying the leading technology vendors and striking deals, or incorporating the data into normal operations will require executives to take a fresh look at how their operations run and what changes might be necessary to stay competitive in the future.