Walking the streets of Singapore on a Friday afternoon I can’t help but wonder what the droves of busy commuters are looking at with their heads stapled to their phones. A flurry of smartly dressed business execs hurry across the street near the Raffles place MRT and “Whack” one zombie’d smart phone victim walks directly into my lap. Without looking up he takes a step to the side and continues. Although absurd it does serve to me as a powerful reminder of our reliance (or physiological dependence) on technology.
Facebook, Instagram, Gmail, Pandora, Snapchat and google play are among the top used smartphone apps in the world. A high portion of use dedicated to social media then some work and a little bit of practical use for health, maybe looking at how many steps you’ve walked that day through the Health app on IOS. Recently we are seeing a larger scale uptake of personal finance apps and consumer products and services apps in the mWorld. The mHealth market, according to Deloitte, is growing at a rate of 33% annually and likely to exceed $40b globally by 2020 but with high regulation globally and non-uniformity in how services are delivered are we ever going to reach a global uptake of core medical services through mHealth? How would we help consumers from a fundamentally social medium to widescale uptake for personal health? And the most important questions for this audience is what is the role of an allied health professional in mHealth if any?
Clearly there are some core problems when trying to predict the future of allied health. 1. Allied health professionals arguably don’t play a critical role in life and death for a patient and as a result don’t sit very high on Maslo’s chart. 2. The result is a perpetual lack of utilisation of key services and unwillingness to financially invest in these services. 3. The average person without “science training” is unlikely to be able to recognise the difference between evidence based practice and not. 4. At the current rate of progress in medical technology and the predicted decline in need for medical services due to automation we will most likely see consulting type servicing in allied health become obsolete. So with all of this in mind it leads us to wonder what can we be doing about it.
With this outlook in mind there are some important considerations to make. Firstly, you are where you are because you want to help people. And secondly, you invested a lot of time and resources into becoming qualified in your field and are likely able to capitalise on this education, training and intelligence. There are a few categorical ways in which we believe allied health can get there foot in the door when it comes to mHealth.
- Utilising 3rd party software to help manage patient’s treatment – Companies like Physitrack are becoming very successful in the mHealth space with a great option for direct to consumer exercise prescription management.
- Building content and providing opportunities for patients to become self-managed or self-educated – This may seem obvious however, creating an environment where there is more information and “noise” from qualified health professionals as opposed to “social influencers” Is probably a good thing. Converting this into a mobile version of information can be relatively straightforward depending on delivery.
- Building software to go along with your content – depending on what field you work in there are many ways you can get involved and the relative cost of development over the years has been decreasing. Just remember if you want to build an app, the quoted price you are originally given will almost always blow out. Our formula we like to use is 4 X the quote plus 10%.
By no means is this article comprehensive but our aim is to get health professionals thinking about the future and where they fit in an evolving market. Just remember these markets, which are growing 4-6 times the rate of allied health services, are running parallel to the space in which you are working and all it takes is to jump on the bus.