As telemedicine has evolved from a reality into a necessity, the role of mobile phone applications in connecting doctors to their patients in far flung areas has become inevitable. It does not come as a surprise either for smartphones have become an inescapable part of every person's life. With easy access to internet, it was only a matter of time before mobile phones and mobile phone apps took over the health industry too.
WHY ARE THE MOBILE APPS THE NEXT BIG THING?
Mobile phone apps have made a wealth of medical information available to the people right in the palm of their hand. These apps allow the doctors to remotely communicate with their patients, eliminating the need for the patients to take a trip down to the doctor's clinic.
Not only has it made the life easier for the public, it also solved one of the major problems that almost every government has to suffer-high doctor to patient ratio. The problem of overcrowded hospitals, overworked doctors and underprivileged people in far flung areas can easily be tackled with the growing use of mobile phone apps.
The next generation of mobile phone applications do not comprise merely of general health information. Disease specific applications have also been launched. The “Eye Handbook” is a classic example. It was developed at the University of Missouri Kansas City, USA and provides free eye health information. People have, therefore, obtained easy access to the treatment of their health problems, however diverse they may be.
Another contribution that mobile phone apps have made towards telemedicine is that distant learning has been facilitated to a great extent with teachers extending a helping hand to their student quite conveniently. Apart from that, these applications have reduced research and audit processes to a piece of cake with bedside data collection and analysis features.
Mobile apps have proved to be heaven sent for virtual clinics as they have made 24/7 access to healthcare for the public quite easy. These apps have put tale health right in the physicians' pockets with remarkable features like billing, e-prescribing, bookings, coordination, E-visits and follow-up. Apart from the obvious benefit of improving the healthcare standards, these apps have also caused a boom in the health sector economy.
WHAT DO STATISTICS SAY?
In the year 2012, Apple announced 20 billion health apps to have been downloaded with the figure doubling to 40 billion in 2013. The rate of adoption of telemedicine and of mobile apps is growing exponentially.
In 2012, the telemedicine market in India was estimated at $7.5 million and it has shown an annual 20% growth rate. With such rapid expansion, the telemedicine sector is expected to rise to $18.7 million by the year 2017. India's concrete IT, mobile technology and telecommunication infrastructure has helped transform the dream of telemedicine into reality and the telemedicine and virtual clinics businesses are flourishing at a fast pace.
THE FUTURE PROSPECTS
Mobile apps have already proven their beneficial role in imparting quality healthcare to people, especially in emergency situations, helping to reduce the time of provision of primary care to patients. Besides, these apps have also made it possible for doctors to discuss important medical cases with other health professionals for a multidisciplinary approach. The day is not far when virtual clinics will completely overtake the outpatient department for the provision of superior and affordable healthcare services to the public right at their doorstep.