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The benefit of apps in healthcare

The health industry is responding to the increasing popularity and availability of technological innovations, such as tablets and smartphones.

Health and wellbeing applications are estimated to make up approximately 40% of new smartphone apps currently being developed. This is a huge market and only set to increase as the benefits become more apparent and smartphone and tablet technology become more widespread.

Health applications have the potential to be adapted and used by healthcare professionals and consumers, helping to revolutionise the sector and reflect the digital age we live in.

At Coventry University’s Health Design & Technology Institute, we specialise in the development of community health products and have launched a new service designing health and social care apps and, via an online service, evaluating these among potential users with expert knowledge.

For healthcare professionals, mobile or tablet apps also have enormous potential for training and professional development. Connectivity is built in, facilitating a blended learning platform with easily updatable information, in an accessible format. This allows for a truly flexible and enjoyable teaching and learning experience, with information available anytime, anywhere; ideal for both time-poor professionals and students.

One of our projects was to develop an app to assist midwives and junior doctors with their annual mandatory training requirements. The app included several learning elements for quick reference such as recommended reading, a glossary of terms and multiple choice questions. It had a built-in test area allowing knowledge to be tested and providing instant feedback to users. To provide a deeper level of training, the app had video and audio lectures and detailed illustrations and animations.

Not only do health training and development apps provide more dynamic training tools, but they can also bring huge cost savings. Apps are inexpensive to produce and update, especially when compared to other training tools.

Because the technology already exists, creators can build an application for a phone or tablet without the need to develop a bespoke operating system or manufacture new hardware, allowing for faster and cheaper development, and allowing more innovation. It also means applications can be changed and personalised to suit a particular need.

Tablets and smartphones, are readily available and the technology is relatively low cost when compared to other health technologies and professional training tools.

Smartphones and apps incorporate a range of features which can be utilised for interactive learning, such as 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, sound and video, voice recorder and camera.

Furthermore, applications are designed to be simple — there is no new learning curve. If you know the basics of how to use a smart phone or an app, you can quickly learn to use new apps, reducing training time.

As mobile technology becomes more sophisticated, apps have huge potential to deliver simple, effective, inexpensive, and personalised solutions to healthcare professionals’ training needs.

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Guy Smallman is commercial development director at Coventry University’s Health Design & Technology Institute.

This article is published by Guardian Professional. Join the Guardian healthcare network to receive regular emails and exclusive offers.


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