Smartphones are becoming commonplace in our everyday lives. Not only can we use our smartphones to make calls, send texts and update social media, we can also contact our GP, learn about our health, track our health and wellbeing, and even carry out blood tests.
Smartphone ownership and usage is rapidly increasing worldwide. In developed countries, 71% of 18-54 year olds and 37% of over 55s own a smartphone, with the over 55 ownership rising faster than any other age group. This provides a clear opportunity for health services to reach out to patients through their smartphones.
Smartphone interaction has the potential to improve communication, prevent missed appointments, and assist patients in managing their health. Increasing awareness of these new capabilities is stimulating increasing demand for health apps. In fact, 80% of smartphone users would like to use their smartphones to interact with healthcare providers, 76% would like to be reminded of their medical appointments, and 69% want to receive prompts to take medication or to book appointments. Whilst many services are already interacting with patients through smartphone technology, there are many that are yet to do so.
Smartphone users are also interested in receiving medical advice remotely from their smartphones, rather than visiting a doctor. Many health apps now enable patients to have video and phone consultations with health professionals, making doctor’s appointments and medical advice even more accessible than ever before. With face to face contact between patients and GPs expected to become less common, could a trip to the doctors become a thing of the past?
Interestingly, medical consultations with a virtual doctor has been found to be beneficial in increasing the honesty of patients, as patients felt more comfortable discussing private matters. This could help to overcome a significant barrier when it comes to patients disclosing personal information. However, patients have reported preference in receiving information face to face from healthcare professionals.
Smartphones are also likely to play a key role in helping individuals to self-manage their health, with patient empowerment arguably the greatest unexploited resource within the NHS. There are many apps which allow individuals to track, monitor and manage their health from their smartphone. In many cases, patients have the option to share this information with healthcare professionals, and some health services now prescribe their use. This type of technology could help healthcare services to cope with issues such as the growing burden of long term conditions, by empowering patients to take control of their own health.
Due to rapid advances in smartphone technology, along with increasing smartphone ownership, and the need for healthcare services to cope with the burden of long term conditions, smartphones are certainly set to play a key role in the future of healthcare. Smartphone technology will help to support and empower patients to self-manage their own health, and will reduce the burden placed on healthcare systems worldwide.
With further future innovation such as machine learning and the use of smartphone sensors to form part of a smart environment, who knows what the future will hold. However, it seems certain that smartphones will start to put patients at the centre of their own healthcare.
Adie Blanchard – Rescon
Rescon researches, develops and delivers human performance technologies and services. Our technologies help individuals, population and communities to reach their maximum potential. Our products include: • Lincus, a configurable and NICE recognised healthcare app that empowers users to take control of their own health and wellbeing • Wellbeing-Tracker, a wearable sensor system combining real-time analytics, state of the art sensors and easy to use interfaces • One Precious Life, a human performance framework that applies scientific principles of performance enhancement to social, mental and physical health.
Rescon is a UK SME founded by Dr Tom Dawson and supported by a team of IT professionals, researchers and corporate and scientific advisors.