Smartphone apps put a world of valuable information at our fingertips, including information about our health. We’re not talking about the ability to Google diagnoses on your phone — the healthcare apps of today are incredibly advanced and are revolutionizing the way we engage with the medical world. Whether you’re a doctor, patient, or researcher, smartphone apps can no doubt provide fast, efficient, and convenient solutions for your medical needs.
ResearchKit and CareKit
Apple officially entered the healthcare market in 2015 with the introduction of ResearchKit and CareKit. Those two software frameworks allow doctors and other medical professionals to create iOS apps that can be used to collect medical research data and help people better understand their medical conditions.
ResearchKit allows the 700 million iPhone users worldwide to participate in medical studies — and the information gleaned from those studies is used by medical professionals to identify patterns and better treat patients.
As well as allowing medical institutions to create apps that work for their research needs, ResearchKit launched five apps of its own, including mPower, an app that’s been used to conduct a large scale (10,000+ participants) study of Parkinson’s disease. That study has already provided researchers with greater insight into the condition.
Another ResearchKit app, Autism & Beyond, uses the front-facing camera on an iPhone to recognize facial expressions on children and adults. Using facial recognition algorithms, the app is able to diagnose whether a person is on the autism spectrum, allowing for treatment to begin without that person ever having to formally see a medical professional.
The fact that a company as large as Apple has made the foray into the healthcare app market is huge. While it may certainly be a revenue generator for the company, it also allows medical researchers to easily collect more pertinent and frequent data than ever before. Big data makes us smarter in every other industry, and now it can do so in the healthcare market.
Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitoring
This app — known in short as Dexcom CGM — is a game changer for those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It monitors a user’s blood sugar levels 24/7 and sends a notification to their phone when glucose levels are too low or too high. It can also send these notifications to the phones of loved ones, doctors, and caregivers, the team of people supporting a patient to ensure they don’t pass out or become manic.
To hear the personal story of someone using the Dexcom CGM app, listen in on an episode of the podcast Reply All, where host PJ Vogt tells the story of his aunt who has type 1 diabetes.
Dexcom CGM isn’t available for download by everyone. In addition to downloading the app on a compatible smartphone or iPad, the starter system requires the purchase of a small sensor and a bluetooth transmitter. Those with diabetes can apply for the system to see if it’s the right fit for them.
Doctor on Demand
This app brings healthcare services to those living in isolated communities or patients who need emergency consultations. The Doctor on Demand app links users to doctors via video calls, with that medical professional then being able to diagnose common illnesses, answer questions, and remotely prescribe medication. The app has a special pediatric feature, ideal for families with a sick child who may be unable to leave the comfort of their home. Not just for physical ailments, Doctor on Demand also allows patients to speak with psychologists and psychiatrists.
With more than a million app downloads and 1,400 board certified physicians signed on to give consultations, Doctor on Demand makes healthcare much more convenient and accessible to those living in rural areas with little access to the medical care they need.
Their website has long been the place to find out information about all that ails, but in 2014 WebMD released an app that iPhone and Android users can leverage to measure several vital statistics and have doctor-reviewed information sent directly to their phone. The app syncs with wearable devices, meaning the data collected by fitness monitors can be made even more extensive and personalized.
The WebMD app allows for easy access to personalized weekly health reviews, a symptom checker, and a first aid guide — it also stores your personal information as it pertains to prescriptions, medical care locations, and doctor contact information. The easy-to-use app is free, and is the most patient-friendly app on our list.
Think of Facebook Messenger, but with your medical professional. PingMD is an application that allows patients to easily chat with their doctors about symptoms, recovery, and other pertinent topics that may come up in between visits. The app also allows doctors to connect with other medical professionals in order to get a second opinion on a photo or question a patient sends through the app.
The six medical apps above are shaking up the medical world. With increased access to medical consultation, to-the-minute tracking of health conditions, and research experts having the data they need to solve pressing medical issues, the future of healthcare is getting smarter each day.