Transforming Medicine: Apps That Improve Your Health

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Medicine and health care are big business, particularly in the United States. In fact, US consumers spend over 1.5 trillion dollars1 on healthcare related expenses each year. Over the last few years, more and more apps have become available that help you monitor and improve your health. As they say, there’s an app for that.

Mobile Health (commonly referred to as mHealth) is a fast growing market. As smart phones, tablets and other connected devices penetrate the consumer market, demand for mHealth continues to grow. Another contributing factor is the miniaturization and maturation of various sensors that assist in monitoring important medical data can now be embedded in mobile devices (blood glucose meters, ECG monitors, blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeters, peak flow meters, neurological monitoring devices, sleep apnea monitors, and others). It is thought that the mHealth solutions market could grow to over 59 billion dollars by 2020 2.

So what do these apps do? The short answer is a lot of things. Some common consumer use cases include Chronic Care Management, Health Tracking Tools, Women’s Health, Medication Management and Personal Health Records (PHR).

There is also a growing app marketplace for healthcare professionals. These apps focus on areas such as Medical Reference, Continuing Medical Education (CME), Diagnostic Tools, Analytics and Alerts.

Grio has been active in developing apps for both target markets. On the consumer side, we worked with a local entrepreneur, Chris Hogg, to develop the 100Plus app. This mobile app is essentially a ‘life coach in your pocket’, and adds a gamification aspect to making healthy choices while going about their daily activities.

Users enter basic stats, including age, gender, height, and weight, as well as where they live, and are given a “LifeScore,” which is an estimate of how long they’re going to live. The score is based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Practice Fusion, an electronic health record service.

Then the app presents them with a series of healthy opportunities or “hopps”. Suggestions are personalized based on the activities of others in the same demographic have indicated they enjoy and can do. It also takes into account the user’s location. For example, if the app detects that someone’s done a lot of walking-related hopps, it might alert him/her of a big staircase nearby. When they’ve completed a hopp, the app publishes the news in a social feed, and adjusts their LifeScore.

On the healthcare professional front, Grio is working with the Procedural Learning and Safety Collaborative (PLSC). PLSC is a non-profit focused on developing tools, curriculum, and policy to improve the training of surgical and other procedural physicians. They have a vision of using mobile apps and data analytics to help achieve these goals and Grio provides product team to assist them in their efforts to improve surgical outcomes.

PLSC initially partnered with Grio in 2013 to build software systems to support these goals. These systems are collectively known as the System for Improving and Measuring Procedural Learning (SIMPL). The first product of this partnership was an iPhone app that attending physicians could use to quickly and easily rate surgical residents on their procedural prowess.

Grio and PLSC continue to collaborate and have built out a comprehensive ecosystem for surgical analysis, including web-based administrative tools and an Android version of the SIMPL app.

These are just two examples of mHealth apps to give you a better feel for the possibilities and what they are all about. As the market matures, these apps will become an essential part of our healthcare experience, improving outcomes and saving money for both consumers and healthcare providers.

1 Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cesan.nr0.htm
2 Source: Markets and Markets: http://www.marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/mhealth-apps-and-solutions.asp

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