Sun | Nov 29, 2020

Health + Tech | Healthcare apps facilitate patient engagement

Published:Sunday | June 30, 2019 | 12:00 AMDoug Halsall
‘The Growing Value of Digital Health – Evidence and Impact on Human Health and the Healthcare System’ indicates that as at March 2018, there were over 318,000 health apps available on top app stores worldwide, with more than 200 health apps being added each day.

A s people become more health conscious, there is a need to increase promotion of their involvement in their own care and give them the means by which to participate. The world has been steadily changing for the last three decades, becoming increasingly dependent on technology. I think I can safely say that in the last ten years, we have experienced an immense explosion of technological creativity and artistry. There is hardly any sector that has not been affected in a positive way by technology.

At this year’s HIMSS conference, I noticed that more companies are dipping their toes in the healthcare technology market. Companies like AT&T – which now has an entire line of healthcare products – Uber, Lyft, and others that are generally focused elsewhere, are now offering health technology solutions. This is because many have begun to recognise the immense market that exists for this in almost every sphere, and so everyone wants a piece of the pie.

In some cases, the technology moves much faster than the rate of population acceptance and absorption. However, we are steadily progressing as people become more aware and as access becomes more widespread. Patient engagement in this environment is much more possible. Patient engagement is about tapping into the knowledge, skill, and willingness of persons to participate in their care by providing the tools to do so. This is important as the more interested and active people are in their health, the more prevention strategies will work. This means that eventually, the health of the population will be much improved, which augers well for a country’s productivity and results in positive spin-offs in other sectors.

As technology continues to advance, we have to now focus on how to ensure that persons from all cross sections of society can get involved. The proliferation of cell-phone use has solved part of this problem as it has become a point of contact between service provider and individual through the use of apps.

A report published by the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science entitled ‘The Growing Value of Digital Health – Evidence and Impact on Human Health and the Healthcare System’, indicates that as at March 2018, there were over 318,000 health apps available on top app stores worldwide, with more than 200 health apps being added each day. As you can see, this is quite an active and lucrative market. But it is also the best and easiest way to get regular people involved in their healthcare decisions.

EMPOWERING PERSONS

Patient-engagement apps are usually directly tasked to empowering persons, allowing them access to health-education information; feedback from physicians; and to generate their own data, which can be analysed either by artificial intelligence or by a doctor.

Apps also provide patients with access to portals and health professionals, for example, for appointment scheduling and follow-up.

Most health-information management systems and medical practice management systems offer an added app for both patient and physician. In addition, the telemedicine component generally also offers an app, or, at the very least, a portal that can be accessed from one’s cell phone to make contact with a physician and/or patient.

Outside of those, there are several remote care management apps and devices that can be integrated and linked to patients’ electronic medical records. These apps generally monitor and provide reports on various areas of health, including chronic-disease management, post-operative care, remote diagnostics, and consultation. There are several others. Some of the more popular ones are to do with wellness and prevention, which include fitness, exercise, and nutrition.

Our public-health facilities are significantly behind when it comes to incorporating digital technology into patient care. The University Hospital of the West Indies is leading the way by implementing the Health Information Management System, which, with its versatility, will allow the institution the base to incorporate several digital technology and remote-care solutions that will improve the patient’s healthcare journey.

Our public-health facilities will need to catch up quickly as very soon, people will begin to demand much more from the sector than they are currently able to access, especially if private-sector offerings continue to improve, as is the case at present.

- Doug Halsall is the chairman and chief executive officer of Advanced Integrated Systems. Email feedback to doug.halsall@gmail.com and editorial@gleanerjm.com