By Paul Swaddle, Founder and Chairman, Pocket App
Healthcare technology is a revolutionary reformer within a sector that is currently facing a plethora of issues. The NHS is under considerable pressure, coupled with a shortage of professionals in the industry which understandably is putting strain on the efficiency of services.
The market for mobile health apps, has this year quadrupled to £320 million, according to ABI Research, radically changing the way health care is delivered and accessed. In 2016 alone, there were 1.5 billion global unit sales of smart phones and we can expect every generation, young or old to have a Smartphone on their person within the next ten years.
In any healthcare system apps are key to overhauling the management and efficiency of services, playing a very important role in patient education, disease self-management, and remote monitoring of patients. Above all, mobile apps will be primary in saving the NHS money and resources, with PwC suggesting that a potential £4.4bn could be put back into the NHS with better use of information and technology.
These apps help eradicate an array of problems faced by patients, healthcare workers and the government. Beyond that, this initiative can be applied to issues within healthcare across the world, especially when we consider the cultural taboos associated with medical care in countries such as North Africa.
For example, when we consider the difficulties surrounding openly discussing sexual health, particularly for women, mobile apps can alleviate the pressure of uncomfortable phone calls and maintain the confidentiality of the patient – which would drastically improve the attitudes towards sexual health, due to the discreet knowledge an app would provide.
Offering a similar service, we at Pocket App launched a ‘Breast Awareness’ mobile app. The app was designed as an innovative method of engaging with a wider audience via mobile to raise awareness of the symptoms of breast cancer. The interactive app was developed in collaboration with Breast Cancer Care, it features a quiz that encourages women to become more breast aware by identifying whether a series of breast changes are the result of breast cancer or not. Dependent upon their answers, women are then provided with information educating them on the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and can share their results on social media to further raise awareness of the app and of the issues surrounding the disease.
This app provides accurate information to women patients, which primarily frees up the services of GP’s and further down the healthcare chain alleviates pressures on surgery receptionists. When we look at the bigger picture, mobile apps will be able to help a range of departments within healthcare, including clinicians.
Pocket App has already worked with the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh to create a training app for kidney care. This is a vital tool to training, as it contains a wealth of information about kidney conditions and diagnosis, allowing doctors to access information at any time, even during their rounds. This could easily be expanded to check patient’s personal data, perhaps through the system of scanning a bar code tag on the patient, in order to confirm that data is matched accurately against the correct patient. In this sense, the doctor or nurse would be able to input patient data in an efficient manner directly into the application, which would result in improved health and safety, as the computer would be able to check that the medication being issued is for the correct patient.
Applications are also paramount in overhauling the organisation of hospital services. It is a long-standing issue that the turnover of patient beds is inefficient within the healthcare system, often with patients being left for hours in A&E or even corridors. A mobile app can provide a secure system of speeding up the flow of information between cleaners, porters and doctors. Cleaners would be able to scan a bar code on the bed that would transmit a notification to relevant hospital staff to notify that a bed has been cleaned and is ready for patient occupation. Essentially, it would mean that patient turnover would accelerate and it would free up the time of hospital staff for more important actions.
Equally, this initiative can be applied within clinics, so that patients are not waiting unnecessarily for appointments. Instead, the app could be issued within doctor’s surgeries that provides realistic waiting times, meaning that patients would not be restricted to the confines of the waiting room. The app could provide a notification near the time of the appointment and patients would be able to cancel their appointments via the app, even at short notice, which would speed up the flow of patients.
An additional benefit of a more streamlined service could see increased revenue for the healthcare system, as patients are far more likely to frequent and take advantage of the hospital’s/clinic’s amenities, and purchase a coffee or other such refreshment, when not shackled to the chair of the waiting room.
As we are all aware, the most pressing issue within the NHS is towards better improving the allocation of resources within the industry. Here, apps would create the greatest solution for restoring the wealth of the sector, for example, through the use of apps that track medication wastage and re-circulation.
In fact, the cost of investing in a system that saves one percent would provide a saving of two million pounds within only two years in one London hospital trust. This kind of saving will be crucial to not only saving money within the NHS but to stabilising and replenishing many of the services within it. A full adoption of mobile health services cannot happen soon enough. The provision of health services over mobile devices has the potential to cut costs while even improving the quality of care on the NHS and expanding workforce.