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There are limits to the time a care team can spend with patients and their families, especially in rural areas with limited access to providers.

But healthcare-related mobile applications can help bridge gaps in care. With a smartphone in hand and the right app, patients can engage with their physician and manage their own healthcare with the swipe of a finger.

Mobile apps, in general, are extremely popular, and health apps are no different. Estimates show there are more than 165,000 healthcare apps currently available. What’s more, use of these apps is on the rise. More than 50 percent of smartphone users surveyed responded that they have used their device to gather health information, and almost 20 percent of this population has at least one health care app on their device.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) calls this growing phenomenon mHealth, a shorthand reference for the use of mobile devices to improve health outcomes, services, and research. Not only is mHealth on the rise, it’s also effective.

A recent study by Nationwide Children’s Hospital shows that when patients and their families use mobile health apps, they are more engaged in their healthcare and have improved outcomes. For example, the study indicates patients are inclined to use apps to:

  • Communicate with their physician or provider team
  • Educate themselves on their condition or course of treatment
  • Monitor their progress or compliance as related to their care plan

But why are mobile health apps so effective? For one thing, there’s the convenience factor. Conventional wisdom says the more convenient something is to do, the more likely it is to be done — whether that’s checking off milestones on a care-focused digital time line or quickly typing up a therapy journal.

For another, there’s the value of patient education. Mobile health apps allow patients to view condition-specific educational videos right in the palm of their hand and receive notifications when it’s time to take their medication. To put it simply, mobile health apps help patients remember what their doctor tells them — which is no small feat.

“More than 80 percent of patients leave the doctor’s office and are not able to remember what they were told before they reach their car,” said Jeff Harper, CEO of Duet Health, a provider of patient education engagement technology. “Uneducated patients have a significant impact on outcomes, readmission rates, satisfaction, and other critical success factors.”

Learn more about how the right technology can bridge gaps in healthcare and improve patient outcomes.