Personal apps: a new healthcare frontier

Personal apps: a new healthcare frontier


In the decades since hospitals and doctors’ offices became the traditional way to receive medical treatment, little has changed regarding the way personal health data is managed. Processes remain heavily paper-based, and data about a person’s health and wellbeing is often spread throughout different locations depending on where the consultation occurred.

More recently, the arrival of smart devices—from tablets to wrist bands—have prompted a revolution in the amount of health-related data a person can collect about themselves. This has significant implications for health records and for the CIOs tasked with managing the data. For doctors, the ability to use personal devices for health applications creates the possibility for better long-term care without the travel demands involved in hospital visits.

There’s an app (and data) for that ailment

There are now hundreds of health-related apps available on smart devices, and the giants of the industry—Apple, Google, and Samsung—are all promoting the benefits of their health platforms and apps.

Apps can measure:

  • Heart rate
  • Steps and distance walked
  • Photo recognition of skin conditions
  • Blood pressure

There is also research being conducted for a device that uses a smartphone for blood tests. All data for these apps can be sent to a doctor for an assessment and ultimately for a diagnosis. The challenge for health IT is the potential explosion of data from literally millions of devices capable of measuring all types of properties.

e-health integration

Traditional health practices have their own set of challenges with data integration, which is made more difficult by the various forms health information takes—from handwritten notes to outputs from MRI machines. Public health apps and devices will add to this challenge significantly and in several new ways.

With enough data from a variety of health devices, the opportunity to correlate different trends for long-term research also exists. The concept of a “field trial” is taken to a new level with millions of people using devices for health and activity tracking.

The task for CIOs

CIOs should investigate:

  • The data formats health apps use
  • Which services they rely on
  • Which standards are compatible with health record information standards they are familiar with

Despite the data explosion, apps do present an opportunity for health IT professionals to be innovative in the way they facilitate information sharing with clinicians who can then offer timely and more informed advice to patients.

Internet of Things

IoT: medical devices meet corporate IT

Medical devices are renowned for being at the forefront of research and development. Modern equipment now integrates wired and wireless networking technology, allowing for real-time patient information and improved treatment.

The immediate benefit of the Internet of Things (IoT) for medical devices is the effect on patient care. One of the biggest challenges in the medical industry is managing information collected in the field. Paper-based processes are still commonplace in hospitals and clinics, and lengthy delays are experienced when data needs to be transferred between departments.

Eliminating error and increasing automation and speed

Networked devices have the potential to eliminate error-prone, handwritten notes and to transmit data in real time or near real time. In the case of a simple temperature reading, a networked thermometer can send a reading directly to the patient’s doctor and trigger an alarm if the value is out of an expected range. Other routine treatments, such as drug dispensing, can be automated, dramatically reducing the risk of an overdose.

Improvements at the corporate level

In addition to the frontline healthcare advantages, medical device IoT also presents a number of opportunities to improve the way organisations in the industry operate their corporate information systems and business processes.

As more devices join the network, exponentially more data will need to be managed by the IT team. This presents numerous challenges in terms of network connectivity, data storage, and processing but also presents several benefits in improving service levels and managing assets.

IoT healthcare devices have the ability to:

    • Integrate medical data with backend systems, such as health records
    • Track the performance of a device over time to better detect any problems that directly impact treatment levels/li>
    • Gather equipment maintenance data and track usage patterns
    • Improve device management by sending updates to devices over the network
    • Better track and manage medical assets and schedule their use for optimal return on device investments

Wider benefits

Not only does IoT provide several opportunities for larger organisations such as hospitals, it also improves outpatient care by enabling the use of networked devices in the home or in lower-cost clinics, as the data can be collated and acted upon from any location. With less of a requirement to be in a treatment location, the potential to free up beds in hospitals is another benefit of healthcare IoT.