Technology in Healthcare: Is It Possible for a Smartphone App to Save a Patient’s Life?

In recent times, doctors have begun to prescribe healthcare apps in lieu of pharmaceuticals and so Scott Ross, Chief Technology Officer of DigitasLBi, takes a look at how technology is providing services to patients.

He states that he loves his job because his work has a real purpose and can add value to a person’s life while making an improvement in the “human condition” at the same time. It is his hope that apps can save people’s lives.

“Work with a Purpose”

The daily routine at Digital Innovation Group (DIG) in partnership with AstraZeneca involves what they call “work with a purpose.” This is where they attempt to address some of the biggest challenges in healthcare. Their teams seek to design healthcare services that are meant to improve the lives of people. In the process, they explore how technology impacts the delivery of patient services with the intent of offering better outcomes.

As a result, they often discuss such things as wearables and apps and have some questions that can be extremely sobering. One commonly asked question is in regards to whether or not an app can actually save a life. As an example, he goes on to talk about diabetes which is no longer a silent killer.

Diabetes as an Example of How Technology Impacts Outcomes

Citing statistics from Diabetes UK, Ross says that there are more than three million UK residents that have seen a diabetes diagnosis. He finds it sad that this number continues to grow and that at least one-and-a-half million lives will have ended prematurely on an annual bases due to diabetes. Or to say that another way, by the time you get to the end of this article, 35 people would have died from diabetes.

He finds it tragic that as many as four-fifths of those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes could have avoided or prevented the diagnosis and unfortunately, there is yet to be a cure. Pharmaceuticals can help with management of the disease, but this is also used in conjunction with a proper diet and exercise regimen. He finds that being healthy is the key to health but a healthy lifestyle isn’t always as simple as it sounds.

How Technology Impacts on a Personal Level

Ross says that his wearables and smartphone have become part of who he is, of his identity. He finds that they are able to provide an unparalleled way to measure what he does and then how he does it. By combining measurement and connection, his personal behaviour evolves as does the way in which healthcare professionals are able to offer support.

Dilemmas GPs Face

These facts are becoming increasingly recognised by physicians and more than one-third of those polled, according to MobiHealthNews, are recommending their patients use apps and two-fifths of those polled state that they believe technology will improve outcomes. Even so, there are growing numbers of options with more than 40,000 apps and literally thousands of different hardware devices already available on the market. There are so many that doctors can’t keep up with all of them. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult for doctors to recommend the best hardware and apps for their patients.

NHS Response to Those Dilemmas

In the UK, the NIB (National Information Board) will issue proposals from the Department of Health in the mid part of this year. It will centre on app accreditation and Kitemark certification from the NHS so that GPs can have confidence in the apps they are prescribing.

In the end, Ross believes that the answer to his question is a resounding yes. Apps can save a life but it needs to be said that the industry has yet a lot of work ahead in order to earn trust amongst those who trust them, even with their lives. This is, to him, a great reason to go to work each and every morning.


Paul Budd

Co-Founder and Business Development Director

Paul is an experienced sales & marketing leader within the healthcare sector and is a Co-Founder of Salus Digital. He is a Digital Health enthusiast with a passion for extending the reach of technology to improve patient’s lives and reduce the strain on healthcare services.

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