As mobile devices continue to become more prevalent and technologically advanced, innovators also continue to develop more mobile applications, or apps. Apps can be highly complex, leveraging the power, popularity, and portability of mobile devices for an ever-increasing range of uses. It is estimated that over five billion people worldwide have a mobile device, with over half of these being smartphones the capability to run apps.
Listed below are the key technology trends impacting the mHealth app industry, as identified by GlobalData.
Internet of Things
Most mHealth apps would not be feasible without IoT, and every major player in the mHealth market utilises IoT to some extent. This is especially true of health and fitness apps. For example, Under Armour’s MyFitnessPal app connects users to a repository of food and calorie information through IoT, while Garmin’s Connect app uses IoT to provide global positioning system (GPS) services for exercise tracking.
Cloud computing is a fundamental building block of the majority of mobile apps, especially mHealth apps. Cloud storage systems offer increased flexibility, storage, and automation, as well as reduced cost, compared to traditional physical servers. Using cloud storage, clinical images can be accessed by multiple doctors, electronic health records (EHR) can be accessed from any location, and patient-level health and fitness information and be stored and tracked over time, just to name a few applications. Big players in cloud computing include Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, and these companies also operate in the mHealth space.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, cloud-based virtual waiting rooms became widely used by patients and healthcare workers. In June 2020, North American leader in healthcare management, Chronometriq announced the release of MagicSeat, virtual queue management system for clinics.
Many mHealth apps, especially apps related to health and fitness, incorporate social sharing of personal fitness information. Apps that do this well include Fooducate’s Fooducate app, which allows users to upload healthy recipe ideas and generates a newsfeed of user-sourced menu options, and the Fitbit app, which encourages users to post their fitness progress to a social feed and, in return, be motivated by the progress of their friends.
Traditional social media hubs are becoming more involved in the mHealth space. In 2018, Facebook announced a collaboration with the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine to use artificial intelligence (AI) to speed up magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Data protection/ cybersecurity
Data protection is a huge concern in mHealth, since many mHealth apps process confidential patient health information. Furthermore, given their public nature, the cloud systems used by so many mobile apps are particularly vulnerable to cyberattack. Data breaches in mHealth apps could have serious consequences, ranging from malicious alteration of medical diagnoses to theft of personal health information for malicious purposes, loss of reputation of the healthcare provider, and more. The widespread adoption of Mobile Health applications during Covid-19 pandemic already causes violation of user privacy.
mHealth apps are often very closely connected with wearable technology, since most wearables operate through or with an associated mobile app. Some notable mHealth apps linked to wearables are Dexcom’s mobile app, which carries out continuous glucose monitoring in diabetic patients through a wearable monitor, and Qardio’s mobile app, which records electrocardiogram (ECG) readings through a wearable heart sensor.
Wearable devices might be a potential game changer in the healthcare industry. Several studies indicated that wearable devices ability to monitor, measure and collect data of vital signs could be used to predict the onset of the virus.
Remote patient monitoring
Remote patient monitoring is becoming more and more prevalent as a method to reduce patient monitoring costs while also reducing the intrusiveness of the recovery process for the patient. Remote patient monitoring is enabled by wireless technology such as IoT and cloud computing, and made easier through mHealth apps. In 2020, due to Covid-19 pandemic, companies are showing more interest in Remote Patient Monitoring methods.
In April 2020, the recent challenger player in mHealth industry, PALO IT, has announced it developed a “Virtual Bed” app for Remote Patient care in Singapore. Similarly, Phillips, the leading player in mHealth development, provided telehealth solutions to remotely monitor and screen patients infected with Covid-19.
Now, machines can learn algorithms to help doctors make clinical decisions faster and more accurately than ever before, or replace the need for them altogether. Artificial Intelligence has been on the rise long before the start of the pandemic. Covid-19 has boosted AI development even further. In the past months mHealth applications powered by Artificial Intelligence were being rapidly incorporated into prediction, screening and fast diagnostic tools of Covid-19.
Canadian corporation DIAGNOS is currently implementing AI tools into its existing CARA (Computer Assisted Retinal Analysis) Application in order to be able to monitor long and short-term effects of Covid-19 by analysing retina of the patients.
COVID-19 testing and mHealth apps
New ways of testing are being implemented in order to reduce the risk of respiratory transmission. One of the ways of mHealth apps being deployed throughout the pandemic is an extensive usage of Mobile Covid-19 testing sets. In March 2020 the University of Mississippi Medical Center partnered with C Spire launched C Spire Health telehealth smartphone app in Madison, Hinds, Leflore, Clay, Leake and Pike Counties.
This is an edited extract from the Mobile Health Apps – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.