According to a report published by the World Health Organization in 2011, there is a critical shortage of medical workforce in more than 57 countries, leading to a global deficit of 2.4 million physicians, doctors, and nurses. The burden of this condition is handled by developing countries where, the average density of physicians per 1000 people still remains 0.64. In the developing world, a doctor operating in a hospital sees 30 patients in a day, on average, which not only results in reduced quality of health care but also induces stress in the doctor’s practice. As for the patients, they have to wait in long queues for hours to meet the doctor, who can only spare minimal time for them.

Mobile health, also known as mHealth, is one technology that promises to bridge this divide between quality and quantity of health care services. The term is commonly used in reference to the use of mobile communication devices (phones, tablets, laptops, etc) for providing health care services and medical information to patients worldwide. For doctors, it is a useful tool to track patient’s information in one small piece of hardware. Most doctors also use it to pass on important alerts to their patients and use these apps in sync with the patient’s personal health care records.

According to a report published by the UAE Mobile Show in 2011, 94% of physicians in the developed world are using mobile health apps, while 41% of new health care technology initiatives employed by pharmaceutical companies are mobile apps.

Best Mobile Health Apps

On a planet that houses 6.8 billion people, there were 5 billion mobile handsets in 2010. With individuals carrying mobile phones, the use of mobile health apps can certainly improve the quality of health care for both developed and developing nations alike. Some of the best mobile health apps currently used by both doctors and patients include:

•    Clinical reference applications: The healthcare technology market is flooded with clinical reference applications that provide information on various drugs, their purpose and side effects, along with relevant images. These apps also feature the directions for use of a particular drug and can be particularly useful for patients living in remote areas.
•    Patient records apps: This is one gem of an application for doctors. It lets them store all their patient information (visits, diagnoses, history, procedures, etc) in one small piece of hardware. It basically lets doctors provide healthcare consultancy on the go. All they have to do is check the patient’s record on the phone, and they have all the history they need to decide on the treatment.
•    Lab test applications: These applications provide quick reference to normal lab values for different tests, ranging from sugar levels to blood pressure levels. With all this information available in the palm of your hand, you can correlate your lab figures with the recommended figures for the tests that you undertake.
•    Video and imagery apps: It is always easy to show something rather than telling something through words. These apps provide 3D animation, in the form of video and images to the patients. The app provides physicians with the ability to zoom in and out of videos and images, and consists of a searchable glossary that they can cross refer to.

According to a study by UAE Mobile Show, by 2015, 33% of all smartphone users will be running mobile health apps. With mobile phones and their associated technologies becoming cheaper by the day and with an estimated 81% of doctors running mobile health apps in 2012, the future end market for mobile health technology is certainly poised for tremendous growth.