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The Digital Application Economy By @JackieKahle | @ThingsExpo [#IoT]

With today’s constant technology advancements, increase of app startups and consumer centric focus, the healthcare industry is b

Healthcare's Ultimate Makeover by the Digital Application Economy

After making a doctor’s appointment via your mobile device, you receive a calendar invite. The day of your appointment, you get a reminder with the doctor’s location and contact information. As you enter the doctor’s exam room, the medical team is equipped with the latest tablet containing your medical history – he or she makes real time updates to your medical file. At the end of your visit, you receive an electronic prescription to your preferred pharmacy and can schedule your next appointment.

Instantly, you get a notification on your mobile device about updates that been made to your patient portal including notes from your doctor pertaining to your visit. As you look though the notes, you remember a question you had for the doctor, so you send a secured email on the patient portal. Later on, you can review your past exam results, request to transfer test results to specialists, search for referrals and or download medical history. Each time you visit a doctor or specialists in your network your files can be accessed to ensure a smooth visit.

This is not a vision of the future, it happened to me last month. My health provider has had basic Electronic Health Records (EHR) and a patient portal for at least four years, and iPhone and Android apps for the last two. What is astonishing is how few healthcare organizations are actually doing the same.

The emphasis of EHRs
EHRs go beyond the data collected in one doctor’s office (i.e. electronic versions of paper records) to contain and share information from all providers involved in a patient’s care, including hospitals, other specialists, pharmacies, etc. 

In 2009,the U.S. Government provided a big push to EHRs by encouraging creation of EHRs with the enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which included $19.2 billion to increase the use of EHRs by physicians.  More recently, the Affordable Care Act also specified new rules encouraging EHRs.

Despite these financial incentives and the clear and compelling data that shows effective use of EHRs can save money and lives (see http://www.healthit.gov/providers-professionals/why-adopt-ehrs) adoption has been very slow.  In 2014, only 48% of healthcare provider organizations and physicians had implemented basic EHRs, and the results vary greatly by state – with New Jersey (where I was born, I am sorry to say) hitting the bottom of the list at 21%.

Of course, the obstacles are not to be discounted either and include security concerns, costs, data migration issues, lack of interoperability standards, culture and many more.

The app economy results in  healthcare industry action
Like many industries before it, healthcare is garnering significant innovation and attention from mobile app developers.  The mHealth App Developer Economics 2014 report by research2guidance states the number of mobile health apps published on iOS and Android has more than doubled in only two and a half years to more than 100,000 apps in Q1 2014.  The market revenue reached $2.4 billion in 2013 and is projected to grow to $26 billion by the end of 2017.

From fitness apps to real-time health monitoring via body sensors, these apps are collecting several hundred million vital parameters per month. But how will all this data get consolidated and become easily accessible to doctors and patients if healthcare organizations have not put in place the infrastructure (including EHRs) and the front-end apps to support it?  Consumers are going to be increasingly vocal to their doctors in demanding ways they can easily access all their consolidated health data.

Healthcare in the application economy today
A recent study conducted by Vanson Bourne (and sponsored by CA Technologies) examined the state of the application economy and what steps organizations across various industries were taking to address the opportunity. The study does not paint a positive picture for healthcare organizations:

  • Only 32% believe their company is being very or extremely affected by the application economy.
  • Only 39% listed “improving the mobile customer experience” in their top 3 security priorities and only 21% listed securing their APIs (often essential to an EHR strategy).
  • Only 37% of healthcare organizations say they released 4 or more customer facing apps last year, as compared to an average for the other industries of 55%.

This global survey clearly indicates that the healthcare industry has significant work ahead of it. Beyond the risk of not being able to satisfy consumer expectations, healthcare companies also run the risk of major industry disruption by new digital-based healthcare providers who are entering the market with very different approaches, all enabled through new technology.  Whether they can be as successful in a challenging industry such as healthcare as similar companies in other industries remains to be seen, but established healthcare organizations should be wary and seriously looking at putting in place digital transformation initiatives to position themselves for long-term survival. 

After all, while healthcare is certainly not the first industry to be affected by the app economy, in many ways, it may be the most important to our future success and well-being.

For more information on the Vanson Bourne study on the overall application economy, see How to Survive and Thrive in the Application Economy and  "8 Steps to Modernize Security for the Application Economy", which details the security and API-related data shared above.

You can also tell me what you think here or on Twitter @jackiekahle or LinkedIn.

More Stories By Jackie Kahle

Jackie is a 30-year veteran of the IT industry and has held senior management positions in marketing, business development, and strategic planning for major systems, software, and services companies including Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, and Gartner. She currently manages the strategy and execution of CA Technologies thought leadership programs. Jackie has an MBA from the Whittemore School, University of New Hampshire, a BA in Mathematics from New York University and is the Vice-Chair of the N.H. State Council on the Arts.

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