Mobile Healthcare Solutions – Top Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Challenges and Solutions in mobile healthcare

The presence and the success of various mobile healthcare solutions and applications are proof enough that the modern healthcare industry is stepping up to mobile technologies and functionality just like most other industries.

However, since the camaraderie is a new one there are challenges that the solution providers, as well as users, face. To ensure that your transition into a more mobile-friendly business outlook goes smoothly, here’s an in-depth look at how to survive the top challenges facing the propagation of mobility within the healthcare industry and healthcare application development.

I will also share some groundbreaking healthcare apps that have or are disrupting healthcare mobility. But before we do so, let’s take a look at what mHealth is and how it influences both healthcare and mobile app development.

What is Mobile Health or mHealth?

What is mhealth?

I happened to read in one of PWC’s reports and found it the most appropriate formula:

Doctors – Hospital Visits + Mobile Technology = mHealth

mHealth app or mobile health, as the term suggests is an ecosystem that connects your fitness with your mobile gadgets, including wearables and sensors.

Earlier mHealth was restricted to sharing problems, remedies, reports, and prescriptions. However, over the years, mHealth has expanded its realm and taken a more personalized approach, paving way for custom mobile apps for healthcare.

The market of mHealth is going to expand on a huge scale globally in the coming years and with it will expand the opportunities, for apps developers in the mobile health industry.

I would like to stress here healthcare app development is not limited to smartphones alone, rather they have embraced newer technologies which fall into the category of mobile.

Why mHealth is Preferred over eHealth?

Lest you should confuse the two, eHealth and mHealth are two different practices, and although related to the same field; they have some distinctly different qualities.

  • First, mHealth has a more personal approach, since we are more attached to our mobile gadgets, thus making Custom Mobile App for Healthcare indispensable.
  • Although the eHealth platform has a wider reach, one finds a more concentrated audience for mHealth. This has lead to more advances being made in the field of healthcare mobile app development.
  • Another important factor that makes mHealth more favored is, its localized appeal, medical practitioners are now able to communicate better on forums, and so are patients. With healthcare mobile apps, one can witness a better connectivity amongst patients and doctors.

The Present Scenario

Here are some interesting facts about mHealth and the Health app market:

Digital Healthcare Hype Cycle 2018

Image credit

  • While remote consultations have entered the slope of enlightenment, telehealth and wearable tech are on their way to plateau of productivity on Gartner’s Digital Health Hype Cycle 2018.
  • The use of wearables by healthcare consumers has increased by more than thrice since 2014 (9%) to 33% in 2018. (Accenture)
  • The projected global revenue generation from wearable healthcare device sales by 2019 amounts to 4.4 billion U.S. dollars. (Statista)

While these facts clearly show that mHealth is on the rise, and the development of mobile healthcare apps is up and coming, only a handful of applications have made it big. And there is a reason why so many apps fail.

Though adopting a forward-thinking perspective on clinical and health-related apps is vital for the sustainability of hospitals and other institutions, it is pertinent to note that this transformation is not an easy or simple undertaking.

In fact, the truth of the matter is that many organizations face these challenges as they embark upon the path towards increased technological mobility and the integration of apps and other similar digital products into their daily operations.

This is done with the assistance of mobile app development experts who develop mobile healthcare solutions. These solutions have assisted the growth of healthcare application development across the world and have changed how patients access health care utilities.

Challenges that Plague Mobile Healthcare Solution Providers

As the above quote from Scott Szymanski of the AirWatch blog illustrates, the challenges faced by healthcare service providers and healthcare mobile app developers arise from both internal and external sources. Specifically, Szymanski points towards security threats, complicated mobile systems, and patient engagement:

Security

Security concerns in mobile healthcare

Patient information is a vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to swiftly diagnosing health problems, as well as resolving billing and other payment issues. However, over 50% of all healthcare institutions fall prey to at least one cyber attack. And one in three of these attacks are a success for the attackers.

How to Overcome

This situation makes it imperative to have in place, a mobile storage and retrieval system that handles the sensitive data and is resistant to security threats and attacks. Not having one such system in place is a major roadblock for mobile healthcare app providers.

Complexity in Implementation and Integration

Integrating mobile healthcare

Despite the fact a large part of the population (including doctors and hospital staff) owns smartphones and other mobile devices today, the complexity of integration and implementation remains a challenge.

Mobile healthcare applications which are difficult to integrate and implement with the existing systems and complicated to use, defeat the purpose of efficiency. The simplicity of deployment and ease of use are two factors that developers, healthcare providers, as well as users, prefer.

How to Overcome

Developers must create applications that are in accordance with the existing system that doctors and hospitals use; don’t necessitate overhauling of the system; and are easy to use on both ends – healthcare providers as well as patients.

Patient Engagement

Engaging patients with mHealth apps

Transparency in the interaction between healthcare providers/doctors and patients is the pulse of mobile healthcare services. However, an incredible number of applications end up feeling like a monologue and fail to engage the patients. If the app fails to enhance the medical experience of the individuals through vital information and data regarding their interaction, it fails the purpose.

How to Overcome

To engage patients it is not only necessary to resolve their pain points, but also to provide them with the health and treatment-related data and information that they need. On the other hand, the other side of the app, i.e. the doctors should also have the information that they deem necessary for staying engaged.

Difficulty for Users

Difficulty in using mobile healthcare apps

Just like the doctors, patients also turn away from applications mobile healthcare solutions that are complex and difficult to use. Unintuitive and hard-to-comprehend digital products add to the frustration of the patients instead of easing things for them.

Also, the fact that different patients could be accessing the application on a score of devices demands for an experience that is suitable for all interfaces. Also, various devices like blood pressure monitors, fitness bands, glucometers could be connected to these applications. The challenge is to make integration, use, and interpretation a cakewalk for the patients.

How to Overcome

Developers must keep the ease of use in mind while developing the apps. User experiences input is something that healthcare providers should look into. The apps should not only take into consideration the availability of a number of devices in the market, but also the scope for the integration of medical and fitness devices with the app.

Health Awareness and Literacy

Health literacy is a challenge for mobile healthcare

A big challenge for healthcare providers is to think from the perspective of the users. While the medical fraternity is health literate, the patients may or may not come with a reasonable medical understanding.

The challenge is to bridge this gap in knowledge.

How to Overcome

The solution lies in studying the needs and the health literacy level of the target audience and then delivering such an experience as resonates with them. Healthcare providers either need to adapt to the audiences health literacy level or find a way to help them make sense despite the gap in the knowledge.

Patient’s Concern over Data Privacy

Patient data privacy and mobile healthcare

While collecting data is extremely important for healthcare providers to understand their customers and cater to them efficiently, the patient’s concern over the privacy of their data is only natural. It is imperative to impart a sense of security and uncompromised privacy to patients. And that can be quite a challenge if there is ignorance about rules like those set by HIPAA as well as GDPR for data privacy.

How to Overcome

Healthcare mobile apps need to comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s (HIPAA) guidelines and ensure the patients’ privacy at all times.

Understanding Why This Transformation Is Essential

Mobile healthcare transformation is essential

So, if there are so many challenges facing the digital transformation of organizations within the healthcare industry into more digitally-savvy and tech-oriented institutions, why bother with this endeavor in the first place?

The answer to this question lies in a singular, incontrovertible truth: Mobility is firmly at the center of the healthcare industry’s future, and to reach out to a greater number of people, mobile healthcare solutions and healthcare application development are inevitable.

According to a report by Statista,

“The digital health market is expected to reach over 200 billion U.S. dollars by 2020 driven particularly by the mobile health market.”

More patients than ever before are embracing wearables like health bands and heart rate trackers. The task that the mobile healthcare now has at hand is to be able to collate this data and render personalized experiences. It also needs to enable the customer to make equal sense of this data to their own use.

Even if you’re not quite ready to embrace the reality that fitness bands, health trackers, and other wearable offerings are causing a radical shift within the overarching patient population, it’s still impossible to turn away from the fact that over 2.5 billion people will own a smartphone by 2019.

Putting the patient at the center of the healthcare process not only improves patient satisfaction scores but also bolsters engagement. Of course, patient-centric care requires interacting with these individuals on their own terms and via channels that they gravitate towards. So, having a strong mobile presence is a must if you plan on tapping into this trend.

“Both clinicians and administrative leaders are hungry for data to make decisions and guide their planning.” – Bobbi Brown, Health Catalyst

As for the rising demand for quality data, this change within the industry is all about providing better healthcare services and enhancing the quality of medical decisions and treatments. Mobile apps and digital products increase the volume of quality data flowing upstream to healthcare professionals.

Hence, it makes plenty of sense for the leaders in this industry to leverage these tools as they continue to optimize and refine the overarching patient experience.

Who’s Disrupting the Mobile Healthcare Applications Scene?

Apple HealthKit

Mobile healthcare with Apple HealthKit

HealthKit combined with Health App has brought about a great change in the healthcare sector. It is an API which provides a central repository for health and fitness data from the users of iPhone and Apple Watch. After taking the due permission of the user, health apps communicate with the HealthKit store to access and share this data.

HealthKit can be appropriately termed as a rendezvous for ‘silos’ (of health data from users) which will help you form an amalgamated profile of your health. In simple words, all your medical apps, the ones for measuring your blood pressure, blood sugar level, weight, and other chronic medical conditions can all be mustered under one roof.

The white toolbox with a pink heart on it, is really like Pandora’s Box but this one helps you monitor your vital health stats. For instance, how many steps you covered in a day? What should be your ideal weight and workout strategy etc.?

And to top it all you can integrate your third-party applications in it too.

Don’t worry about securing your privacy and information accessibility zone, it is in the safe hands of Apple.

This apple won’t keep the doctor away; rather it will aid you in keeping your medical contacts and other health-related assistance handy – a major requirement in these pacing times.

A great example that we can quote in this case, is helping an app called the Medisafe address the problem of drug non-adherence worth $300 billion. Medisafe makes use of Apple HealthKit API to help healthcare providers, patients, as well as payers carry out seamless relevant health-related data and information exchange.

How We are Contributing to the Revolution

Here’s how we are supporting the healthcare industry set digital healthcare trends with an app that connects healthcare professionals globally

The OCR

The OCR - Mobile Healthcare App for iOS and Android

OCR, the brainchild of Dr. Sandeep Bansal, a doctor-turned-healthcare entrepreneur. Dr. Bansal is a mobile social platform for healthcare professionals initiated by On Call Room for both iOS and Android smartphones.

The app aims to combine social care and healthcare technology, resulting into a unique product which enables healthcare professionals to connect, network, and share notes amongst themselves, on the latest trends in the healthcare sector.

Not only does it offer the latest updates from the healthcare community but also extends the advantage of sharing images, videos, MS PowerPoint presentations, PDFs, Excel sheets, and more in the same professional circle. The app also lets you view the notifications for followers, upbeat/downbeat your beat, and even lets your comments on posts.

Users can filter through content that interests them, or those shared by the colleagues they follow. It allows safe and secure sharing of content with a consent form – a copy of which is sent to the user(healthcare professional) and the patient, and one is kept on record.

OCR is on its way to make social networking for healthcare providers and professionals more open, safer and more convenient than it has been till now.

Ready for Mobile Healthcare Solutions?

From developing mobile apps that are easy to use (both for healthcare providers and patients), to maintain a strong stance on security and privacy, there’s a lot that goes into this process; especially if you’re working on these apps in-house or without a strong understanding of the best practices in digital product development.

However, failing to embrace the hard work and the effort needed to overcome these challenges and issues is an even worse idea considering that digital transformation is an inevitable force currently spreading throughout not only the healthcare industry but also the modern world in general.

Fortunately, with the examples and solutions provided here – in addition to the help of a trusted team of mobile development experts – there’s no reason why your hospital or medical institution can’t survive these challenges and create a truly engaging mobile experience that more than meets the needs of its target audience. All that’s left to do now is get the wheels in motion and start working towards your mobile-friendly future.

Need help creating a mobile healthcare app?

Amit Manchanda

About the Author

Amit Manchanda is working at Net Solutions as Project Lead and has over 9 years of experience in technologies like ASP, Adobe Flex, and Android. He has been part of SME (Subject Matter Expert) Group for RIA applications. He possesses a sound understanding of technical requirement/problem analysis and resolution for providing the best solutions to clients. He is passionate about his work and enjoys interacting with his team. In his leisure time, he loves to listen to music, watch cricket, and play with his daughter.

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