On the surface, the face of digital healthcare is bright and shiny: spinal implants are helping people walk, apps are diagnosing blood disorders, and medical imaging exists that can accurately scan your entire body. We see these remarkable technological advances in healthcare and say to ourselves: alright! This is amazing. This technology is going to revolutionize healthcare by, like, tomorrow. But if you’re in the industry (and specifically the industry catering to mHealth application development) you know the real secret hiding beneath that topical veneer.
You may have seen it between the lines of today’s popular headlines: physicians vs. AI technology, human empathy vs. machine learning. Whatever form it takes, the conflict between new technologies and the people meant to use them plagues every industry. In healthcare, however, the conflict has immediate and devastating side effects. It eats up the precious time that physicians have for responding to patients. And in medicine, a second can mean a life.
The seed of the problem, of course, is that in the past tech entrepreneurs have been prone to keeping their eye on the prize, often taking a retroactive approach to invention.
Put differently, instead of finding a problem and building the tech to solve it, mobile healthcare start-ups across the U.S. have optimistically marketed their “nifty new applications” to hospitals small and large, only to deliver frustratingly time-consuming tech that fails to expedite tried and true medical practice. Whether it’s a communication issue, an adoption issue, or an efficiency issue—mistakes in the past have left some physicians nervous about trusting the newer technologies marketed to help them.
Not that app developers are by any means the bad guys here: at the end of the day, these digital gurus are still just good people trying to bring a great new product to the healthcare industry. And in all likelihood, they’ve been drawn to mHealth application development because they know how important it is to America that we improve the ways physicians deliver healthcare. They’ve just been forgetting to talk to the doctors first.
As a result, modern mobile healthcare solutions have been limited by their inability to address the real problems that patients and doctors face every day. Sometimes they even expedite the problem—indeed a recent report concluded that clinicians are using about 4.1 work-related mobile apps on a regular work day (with nurses using 3.2). In the confusion, the rate of drug errors by physicians has jumped 50 percent in recent years, and almost 1 in 5 medications used by seniors are still prescribed inappropriately. Overcrowding, underfunding, and understaffing mean preposterous work hours for most physicians, indicating that these trends are only going to get worse if nothing changes.
Thankfully, this is a story that’s only barely begun.
Spurred into action by the dire realities of our current healthcare inefficiencies, and with lives on the line, both physicians and mHealth app developers are realizing that the only way they can succeed is by turning to each other. And while it’s promising to see our largest providers move into digital healthcare, it’s up to the smaller, more nimble providers to establish from-the-ground-up mHealth initiatives that push the industry forward.
Take the Cedars-Sinai Accelerator in Los Angeles, a local innovation hub targeting the present discord between clinicians and developers. By connecting entrepreneurs with healthcare experts and medical professionals at every level (as well as $100,000 in funding) the accelerator has been changing the way clinical decision-makers bring new healthcare technologies to market.
In fact, we are willing to bet that in 2019, these physician-developer“teams” will further unite to create modern, viable solutions that surpass your everyday “technological adoption” statistic.
Take the Butterfly Network, the next decade’s leading voice in mHealth disruption. Their new device, named Butterfly iQ (a portable ultrasound device about the size of an electric razor that plugs into your phone) costs only $2,000 as opposed to the real deal which can cost over $80,000 on average. Although the tool isn’t meant to completely phase out the more precise, larger machines, Butterfly iQ is still helping doctors in small, rural, and underfunded medical facilities identify dangerous blood clots or issues with heart function using the phone they already have in their pockets.
Late last year the company sourced over $250M in fundraising, and it is big investments like this that signal a maturing market for all different kinds of mHealth applications. Consider, for instance, Maven’s similar success in bridging the technology gap in maternal healthcare, helping more than 150,000 people in 166 countries in improving women’s health outcomes. Or L.A.-based Heal who helps licensed doctors and pediatricians connect with patients using a mobile app anyone can download. If these companies can stand as an indication of the current mHealth climate, then the secret is out:
Digital Health is hitting its peak right now. Are you the kind of developer that physicians on the frontline need?
If the answer is yes, then it’s just a matter of deciding where your passion lies. There is still a long way to go in terms of mHealth security, clinical efficiency, and medical response, but with forecasts predicting that many more barriers to great healthcare are bound to fall away as mobile tech continues to saturate our every-day existence, mHealth innovators are sure to find their cause in mHealth application development.