The Future of Mobile Health: How Apps Could Revolutionize Healthcare

Increasingly, mobile health or mHealth is disrupting the health care industry, and Amazon is leading the pack.

The hospital is going to be a very different place in the 2020s than it has been up until now. Increasingly, doctors and nurses are going to be incorporating mobile devices and wireless technologies into patient health care, and this is called mobile health or mHealth.

In a 2018 study done by Zebra Technologies, it was estimated that by the year 2022, 97 percent of hospital nurses, and 98 percent of hospital doctors will be using mobile devices in treating their patients.

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Already, these devices are helping nurses reduce errors in administering medication, aiding in specimen labeling, and reducing preventable medical errors.

In the future, doctors and nurses will be able to use their mobile devices to access medical and drug databases, laboratory results and electronic health records (EHRs).

The "everything store" jumps in

Also entering the mHealth arena is "everything store" Amazon. In April 2019, Amazon announced that their voice-activated virtual assistant Alexa can now handle medical data.

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Alexa will be able to relay and store blood sugar measurements taken by internet-connected monitoring devices, interface with doctor's offices to schedule appointments, provide patients post-operation instructions, and order and deliver prescriptions from pharmacies.

In the U.S., all medical-related software has to be compliant with the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA). Currently, Amazon has approved only six developers to create Alexa-enabled portals into users' medical information. That information will be protected by encryption and access controls, and it will be kept in secure storage in the Amazon cloud.

This new software has been created at a secret Amazon lab variously called 1492, the Amazon Grand Challenge, and Amazon X. The lab is also reportedly creating a platform for electronic health records, and telemedicine health care apps. A telemedicine app would allow a virtual consultation with your doctor from anywhere in the world.

Jeff Bezos, Jamie Dimon, and Warren Buffett

In June 2018, Amazon paid $1 billion in cash for online pharmacy startup PillPack, which ships prescription medications directly to customers' doorsteps.

In March 2019, Amazon whose CEO is Jeff Bezos, partnered with bank JP Morgan Chase which is headed by Jamie Dimon, and the holding company Berkshire Hathaway, headed by legendary investor Warren Buffet. Together, these behemoths are launching a new health care venture whose name has only recently been made public - Haven. The venture is headed by a surgeon, Harvard professor, and writer Atul Gawande.

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According to its website havenhealthcare.com, Haven is intended to improve access to primary care, simplify insurance and make prescription drugs more affordable, initially for the combined 1.2 million employees of Amazon, Berkshire, and JPMorgan. Later, it plans "to share our innovations and solutions to help others."

The new venture has already raised fears among health insurers and drugmakers who fear Haven will use its collective power to disrupt established players. According to its website, Haven has promised to be free from profit-making incentives and constraints and to reinvest any surplus profit into its work.

See one, do one, teach one

Another entry into the mHealth universe is the Touch Surgery mobile app. Created by two surgeons, Jean Nehme, and Andre Chow, Touch Surgery has over 150 surgical simulations including, "Le Fort I Osteotomy" and "Laparoscopic Inguinal Hernia Repair," that anyone can download for free and practice with. 

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