Smartphones Are Increasingly Used by Patients and Providers in Healthcare

For the first time ever, smartphone apps account for 50 percent of US users’ time online, comScore reports. While computers and tablets still capture half of a consumer’s screen time at work and home, as smart phone screens grow larger and 4G LTE networks become faster and more prevalent, the convenience factor indicates the growth in time we spend on our smartphones will continue to accelerate.

The prevalence of health apps, also means the smartphone is becoming an indispensable part  of  healthcare and general well being—from both the patient and the caregivers’ perspectives.

More than half of Americans are now sharing their medical information using their smartphone. A recent study from Ketchum Public Relations reports 60% of Americans said they’ve shared information with their healthcare provider using a smartphone, whether it was through the wireless internet browser, mobile app or wearable device. And it’s not just text—it’s multimedia content. One in four say they have emailed or texted a photo of a medical issue to their healthcare provider.

But that’s not all. Doctors are increasing relying on smartphones. In fact, the first person I ever saw with an iPhone in 2007 was a podiatric surgeon, who used the camera to keep track of how his patients were recovering from surgical procedures.

Research at Orlando Health indicates the smartphone could also help make the 200 year old stethoscope obsolete. Hoping to improve on the current design and also cut down on the risk of infections, doctors have been experimenting with using their smartphones, a special app and a listening device called Heart Buds instead of the venerable stethoscope.

Researchers found Heart Buds picked up sounds just as well as the top stethoscopes on the market – and better than disposable models. In fact, compared to heart buds, disposable stethoscopes missed 43 percent of heart murmurs and up to 75 percent of carotid artery blockages. Even more importantly, the opportunity for bacteria to nest in the earpieces of stethoscopes is eliminated.

One other big advantage of the technology, Heart Buds can also allow patients with chronic diseases to manage their condition from home. They can now record their own chest or heart sounds and send the file to their doctor. Athletes use heart buds to monitor their bodies – and pregnant women are now using them to record sounds of their babies in the womb to share with friends and family.

Cost is another advantage. Traditional stethoscopes can cost up to 400 dollars, while heart buds cost less than 10 dollars to produce.

One other surprising development–the same Ketchum study says nearly half of respondents with smart phones have an app that tracks fitness, working out, health or medicine and 83% of those surveyed indicated that they use one of those apps at least once a week. Check your iPhone—they typically come with health apps already embedded now. The next trick is figuring out how all of this interfaces with our electronic medical records and all the HIPAA problems that may ensue!

Questions, comments, thoughts? I’d love to hear from you.