As popular as mobile phone applications have become, there are some products that could still benefit from some refinement before entering the market in droves. At the top of this list are mobile health applications, which by all accounts, will expand considerably in the next five years.
Despite the clear potential benefits of mobile health applications, various studies have found that consumers have been slow to adopt these potentially valuable tools, even though they would help facilitate enhanced communication with their physicians. If used properly, mobile applications and personal health records could interact with a doctor's electronic medical records system and produce streamlined care for patients.
There is also the issue of the applications themselves, many of which could use more vetting before hitting the market. Although they do not face the same HIPAA compliance standards and privacy issues that medical facilities face, companies that produce these mobile applications still have room to improve their offerings so they truly benefit consumers.
"It's a nascent field and few health apps have been rigorously evaluated," Johns Hopkins University's Alain Labrique told The Baltimore Sun in March. "A lot of the apps you see out now have a disclaimer, or should have a disclaimer, that they have not been validated through rigorous research. It comes down to the individuals' perceptions that the app works for them."
There is also the issue of low-income patients, who may not have the financial means necessary to own a smartphone. Although iPhones, Androids, Blackberrys and similar devices may seem omnipresent, the digital divide does exist, and this case, patient health outcomes could be at risk because of it.
Doctors should always be in touch with developments in the health field, including these new tools for treating patients. Physicians who work with an experienced healthcare IT consulting service will be able to make recommendations to patients who want to take control over at least part of their own care.