Longevity Network
  • Sept 22, 2018
  • Dr. Mylea Charvat, CEO & Founder of Savonix

Q: At this point, are mobile healthcare apps more novel than useful?

This question was sent to me for a perspective today and as I type this answer I am in a room at the California Precision Medicine meeting.

A few minutes ago Brennen Spiegel, MD, MSHS, of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, presented on the use of wearables technology and mobile applications in monitoring and predicting cardiac events. In a recent study a remote monitoring application demonstrated a 6% increase in survivor rates over cancer patients that did not have remote monitoring of treatment and symptoms. These cases show us that mobile applications can have a profound impact on real life healthcare outcomes. This is promising and exciting – but it also presents a problem: How do we sort the signal (valid and reliable apps) from the noise (junk applications built with no clinical validity)?

Mobile healthcare apps are a novel part of healthcare history and fall onto a spectrum of usefulness. Very practical implementations of mobile apps already exist that help patients and providers communicate more efficiently, access health records, and schedule clinic visits. There are also apps that harness mobile to gather data on patients (biometric, self-report, etc.) that were not as easily accessible before.

Issues arise from apps that have not done their due diligence in making sure their product is clinically valid and reliable. A lack of scientific rigor in producing an app can have harmful effects like misdiagnoses or bad medical advice. However, the government is taking steps to regulate mobile healthcare. The FDA launched a trial
pre-certification program that is a collaboration with 9 companies to determine what criteria should be included in evaluating all digital health companies in the future. Additionally, in 2016 the FTC hit Lumosity with a $2 million fine for falsely advertising the efficacy of its brain-training platform.

Nonetheless, I have great hope for what digital health can do for healthcare. Mobile platforms provide an accessibility and affordability that has the ability to truly democratize the health system.

As discussed above there have already been success stories. Another example is that telemedicine has been used by pregnant women in rural areas, giving them access to obstetrics specialists who would otherwise be too far away for them to have an appointment. My advice is to take mobile healthcare app assertions with a grain of salt if they sound too good to be true, and hold each app that comes out to a high clinical standard.

Though relatively novel, healthcare apps are becoming rapidly adopted by patients and HCPs with the global mHealth market predicted to grow exponentially and be valued at 59.12 billion US dollars by 2020.

Mobile healthcare apps allow patients better access to their healthcare provider (HCP) and clinical data without the effort of traveling to the hospital or outpatient clinic. Many patients find it challenging to get to their healthcare appointment for a variety of reasons including living in a busy city where traffic is heavy or living in a rural area far from their doctor. Many people have busy schedules that make finding the time for a visit with their HCP provider difficult. Healthcare apps enable patients and HCPs to schedule appointments, order medications, check labs reports, and engage in virtual interactions from anywhere at any time.

Another extremely useful function of healthcare apps is helping patients stay on track with their health and wellness goals. Automated reminders along with personalized messages from HCPs can help patients adhere to medication regimens, maintain healthy eating and exercise habits, and stay motivated and supported in between formal visits.

Healthcare apps are also useful for HCPs who can use the technology to conveniently coordinate care on one platform, quickly access patient medical records, and share important medical information and educational materials with patients by uploading documents within seconds.