Health apps: Digital Health will soon be mainstream and could save billions
They are becoming more and more popular and have the potential of clearly relieving health budgets. Health apps have become integral parts of the future of medicine.
In Germany, almost every second smartphone owner (45 percent) uses health apps. According to a Bitkom study, just as many can imagine doing this in the future. Among the most popular digital assistants are apps which simultaneously measure body and fitness data – for example, heart rate, blood pressure, or steps walked. Three quarters of respondents stated they use apps to improve their health in general. “Health apps helps us to stay healthy for longer and, if we are ill, to return to full health quicker,” says Bitkom CEO, Dr. Bernhard Rohleder. “Apps motivate people to do sport, help people to set up training plans, and warn the user if their vital signs are no longer in the normal regions and they need to go to the doctors.”
In addition to popularity, a substantial economic topic may become important in the future when it comes to health apps. According to the latest study “The Growing Value of Digital Health” by the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science , the healthcare cost savings will be visible from November 2017 onwards. Digital tools for combatting and preventing illness could soon make expensive and cumbersome analysis machines in hospitals and doctors’ practices redundant. It predicts the use of digital health could be mainstream within ten years’ time and revolutionize the whole world of medicine, not just because it allows medicine to be further personalized.
Where potential for savings lies
The study’s authors estimate that, in the sectors of diabetes prevention, treatment for diabetes and asthma, and cardiovascular and lung rehabilitation alone, seven billion dollars are saved every year within the American healthcare system. Regarding health costs as a whole, savings of 46 billion dollars would be possible in the USA. That includes savings in research as clinical studies would be able to review current patient data more often. With regards to the German market, it would still be a few billion.
More success vis-à-vis prevention
In Germany, the Arvato subsidiary Vilua is active in the digital health market. An important sector of Vilua is healthcare within companies where digital assistants lead to a real increase in productivity. “With digital solutions, we can not only save money but also achieve effects that weren’t possible till now,” says Laura Henrich, Healthcare Strategy Leader at Vilua. The technical side, however, is just one aspect of Vilua’s healthcare apps. “Digital solutions alone will not suffice,” says Henrich. “We believe there is a need to combine these with human expertise.” After all, in the healthcare sector, it is above all about fundamentally changing people’s behavior. “Therefore we offer access to a personal coach via our app, with whom users can talk or communicate over a messaging service,” explains the strategist. “The users commit themselves more and receive more individualized ratings. The combination of coach and digital technology allows us to improve the way we help people.” The number of participants compared to traditional professional healthcare measures is actually visibly higher. Ultimately, healthcare apps that firms make available for their employees can also lead to a closer affinity to the company.
Personal health advice
Health apps can even provide valuable services for the chronically ill when it comes to managing their illness better or adjusting their diet. “Doctors often make recommendations that would require long-term help for the patient in order to carry them out regularly,” explains Laura Henrich. “Doctors normally don’t have the time for that, so a health app with a coach makes sense here and can help the person affected to finally enjoy a better quality of life.”
The sector of apps involving health management and patient care is actually growing rapidly. According to the IQVIA study, this sector already makes up 40 percent of the digital health market; two years ago it was only 27 percent.
Author: Editorial team Future. Customer. Image: AdobeStock