Monday, May 23, 2016

Do modern physicians need an app that can spot a disease?

Are phones now ‘pocket doctors’?

The use of mobile phones and innovative apps is emerging in the management of many health conditions. Apps are widely accepted and rapidly advancing for preventing, monitoring and diagnosing disease. Currently apps are used in the management of cancer, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, eye disease, skin cancer and Parkinson’s disease, to name a few.

If apps are now capable of this individualized technology, and there is such wide-scale usage, are smart phones now a pocket replacement for doctors? There has been much debate around this in the medical arena. 
As apps provide personalized information based on big data, therefore less human error, they are fantastic for preventing and monitoring disease. They can prompt a patient to consult their doctor based on changes that could otherwise go unnoticed. But what if an important piece of information has not been recorded, or a specific aspect of medical history is missing? A phone cannot replace a qualified, experienced healthcare professional, particularly when diagnosing disease. It can, however, mutually benefit both patient and healthcare professionals.

A role for apps in the healthcare industry

Two things are very evident – one, there is a strong consumer market for accessible, evidence-based health apps; two, healthcare practitioners are generally in favor of utilizing mobile technology to improve the care provided for patients. As these technologies continue to develop, they will further compliment and expand the services a practitioner is able to provide.

While a doctor is irreplaceable, the ability to distantly monitor patients with chronic diseases is extremely beneficial. Knowing vital signs, health status and lifestyle behaviors can all contribute to more holistic care with more engaged monitoring systems. Patients can track their health status with real-time evidence in front of them. Hence, patients who utilize these apps become more attentive to their own health and in return are easier to work with.

Examples of the benefits from using apps has been seen extensively in both diabetes and cardiovascular disease. These conditions rely on early diagnosis and recognition of risk factors. For instance, if a patient’s blood pressure has an alarming spike, the app can alert the user that it is important to contact a healthcare professional. Health apps like this are become more prevalent for a range of conditions and will undoubtedly find a sound role in the medical industry.


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Kim HS and Jeong HS. (2007). A nurse short message service by cellular phone in type-2 diabetic patients for six months. Journal of Clinical Nursing.

Santorelli G et al. (2013). Developing prediction equations and a mobile phone application to identify infants at risk of obesity. PLoS.