The COVID pandemic accelerated the adoption of mobile healthcare apps. But what will happen to those apps now, in the post-pandemic era? Will they continue to play an essential role in healthcare delivery? How will they change and adapt to the new “now”? Let’s find out.
Can you imagine if the COVID pandemic had happened 30 years ago, in a time with no mobile phones, computers, or even the internet? After experiencing those couple of years and the challenges they came with, it’s almost impossible to imagine how much more difficult pandemic life would have been to manage without internet access and mobility. The internet played a pivotal role in enabling instant worldwide communication, disseminating information, and facilitating a myriad of remote services as people adapted to new ways of working, learning, and socializing, among other things. But more importantly, it’s unfathomable how much more complicated and utterly catastrophic things would have been without access to mobile medical services. It’s a fact: remote medical services, such as those provided by healthcare apps, were a godsend during the COVID pandemic. While these types of applications had been around for a while, it wasn’t until the pandemic that the importance of mobile healthcare and healthcare apps became apparent as a means of providing life-saving, cost-effective healthcare services remotely.
But now, as we move beyond the pandemic and life is settling into what some call “the new normal,” what will happen to all the healthcare apps that saw their dawn in those fateful years? Is the use of healthcare apps still on the rise? Will it continue to increase, or are they doomed without the urgency that marked their birth? What do post-pandemic healthcare apps look like?
We at Foonkie wanted to highlight some of the most significant ways in which mobile healthcare apps are evolving to remain relevant in the post-pandemic era. Let’s get started.
The state of post-pandemic healthcare apps
2020 will go down in history, not only as the year of the pandemic but also as an unprecedented period for the mobile app development industry. The increasing pervasiveness of COVID and its evident impact on public health led governments and sanitation departments worldwide to set in-person social boundaries and encourage patients to avoid face-to-face interactions in medical centers and hospitals to prevent further increasing contagion levels. As a result, we stayed home and downloaded a lot of apps in a quest to maintain some level of normalcy while meeting the pressing demands for social distancing. Many of those apps were for entertainment purposes, others to keep educational flows going, and others were healthcare apps.
While healthcare app adoption was already on the rise before the pandemic, 2020 marked a soaring uptick in the number of medical applications we developed and downloaded, with the global healthcare app market growing by almost 66% that same year. This growth in adoption and use was especially evident in the areas of telemedicine, fitness, and medical training and reference. Moreover, these healthcare apps catered not only to regular users but, with time, were also developed for medical professionals and students, hospital operations staff members, pharma companies, lab technicians, nurses, private practices, and many other stakeholders in the medical services sector. As a result of this accelerated digitalization of healthcare, we had better coverage of medical services, better health outcomes, and increased access to more decongested medical facilities.
Three years later, the surge in the popularity of healthcare app development continues strong, with a forecasted CAGR of nearly 12% from 2022 to 2030 and an expected value increase of $105.9 billion by 2030. But honestly, these figures come as no surprise. With the ever-evolving field of AI being actively applied to mobile healthcare, the increasing need to leverage big data for insight gathering, the advent of 5G, and the undeniable proliferation of faster and more affordable smartphones, we are currently at the gates of the era of digital healthcare. And not only that, there are now well over 350,000 healthcare apps on the market, most of which are now expanding into other areas of health, such as fitness and wellness. That means that healthcare apps are now becoming more than just medical devices; they are spawning a new and exciting generation of innovative health-related products.
So, as the post-pandemic long-term adoption increase of healthcare apps seems to be permanent, digital medical technology continues to advance, and patients’ need for remote service evolves, healthcare apps will become even more commonplace and indispensable for the healthcare industry. But it’s essential to understand how these new healthcare apps have evolved and how they behave now that the pressing need for remote medical services seems to be over. Here are the main ways healthcare apps have evolved to adapt to the “new normal.”
There is a prevalence of telemedicine apps
Telemedicine is the modern digital healthcare tool by excellence. Since it is one of the most effective ways of enabling long-distance communication between healthcare providers and their patients and providing remote medical services in real-time without geographical restrictions, it’s no surprise that telemedicine has become an essential feature of most pandemic and post-pandemic healthcare apps.
Even though telemedicine was already popular in some digital healthcare scenarios before COVID, it became a need for most people seeking remote medical services during the pandemic. Because most of us were hesitant to visit healthcare facilities due to the risk of infection, telemedicine apps became the only way to access medical services safely and conveniently. As a result, there was a surge in demand for telemedicine apps, which corresponds to the increase in their prevalence we’re still seeing today. In fact, even before the pandemic, the technology showcased significant popularity, with a market value of $41.63 billion in 2019. And now, even as the pandemic wanes, the telemedicine app market is expected to keep growing at a compound annual growth rate of 25.8% to reach $396.76 billion by 2027.
The use of telemedicine apps will likely continue to grow, even well past those apocalyptic pandemic years. And not only that, thanks to the advent of modern technologies, faster mobile networks, and the increasing popularity of the use of AI-powered tools in healthcare app development, their inherent convenience and cost-effectiveness will only get better. In that sense, modern healthcare apps will start including telemedicine services to help save more lives and resources and continue to improve access to healthcare services for people in remote areas who may lack easy access to medical facilities and quality care.
Here are some of the most popular telemedicine apps:
MDLIVE: MDLIVE is a telemedicine app that provides virtual consultations with board-certified doctors, therapists, and psychiatrists 24/7.
Teladoc: Teladoc is a popular telemedicine app offering virtual consultation services, including general visits, urgent care, therapy, mental health, and dermatology.
Predictive analytics will become non-negotiable
For a while now, preventive care has started becoming an essential part of healthcare practices. It helps stakeholders improve overall health outcomes before conditions show up, as opposed to treating them after they have developed. For example, predictive analysis was used extensively to enforce preventive care during the COVID pandemic. It was instrumental in helping medical institutions and governments identify disease progression, high-risk patients, potential hotspots, and spread coefficients. It also allowed them to predict the impact of different interventions and containment measures.
Similarly, healthcare apps have historically played a key role in promoting preventive care. Still, thanks to AI-powered tools, we can leverage the benefits of data analytics to predict behaviors and draw the insights necessary to help stakeholders take action before illnesses become untreatable. In that sense, predictive analytics is becoming one of the most interesting post-pandemic features of modern healthcare apps.
Modern healthcare apps can now leverage AI systems that can be programmed to use statistical models to evaluate a patient’s historical data and use it to make highly accurate predictions about future conditions and widespread health concerns before they appear. It works by going through vast amounts of data to identify patterns and behaviors and pinpoint individuals at risk of developing certain health conditions. This allows healthcare providers and stakeholders to take proactive measures to prevent or manage those conditions in time to avoid catastrophic outcomes. Additionally, predictive analytics can help physicians create personalized treatment plans for each patient, reduce the risk of complications, and identify high-risk patients to provide targeted interventions in time to prevent complications. All of these benefits can lead to reduced healthcare costs by minimizing the need for medications, hospitalizations, readmissions, and unnecessary emergency room visits.
As a result, predictive analysis is starting to become an integral part of healthcare apps and will play a significant role in enforcing preventive care in future digital healthcare scenarios.
Here are some of the most prominent post-pandemic healthcare apps that use predictive analytics:
Ada Health: Ada Health is an AI-powered healthcare app and symptom checker that leverages predictive analytics to provide personalized health recommendations and predictions based on a user’s current and historical medical data.
K Health: K Health is a symptom checker healthcare application that uses predictive analytics to identify potential conditions, provide personalized medical recommendations, and provide real-time health insights.
The rise of mental health apps
Health isn’t just physical; it is also mental, and there’s no denying that the COVID pandemic had–and still has–a significant impact on the mental health of humans worldwide. Many people experienced increased anxiety, stress, depression, and other mental illnesses due to the uncertainty, shock, isolation, and financial insecurity that came with the pandemic. There was already some level of mental awareness in specific medical settings, and we had some resources available to help deal with mental health, such as therapy, support groups, and medication. Unfortunately, when the pandemic hit, everything came down in a matter of days. Most people, hospitals, and institutions weren’t prepared for the mental strain and subsequent mental health issues that stemmed from it.
As most people continued to seek support for their mental health after the pandemic hit, healthcare providers had to adapt their processes and practices to offer remote and socially distant mental health care. Most practitioners had to leverage the benefits of telemedicine to keep an eye on their patient’s well-being. In contrast, others had to offer online support such as video calls, virtual mindfulness groups, and other remote mental health resources to meet the demand for remote mental health services. As a result, there was an increase in the downloads and development of mental health apps as developers rushed to meet the flood of new users who were now in dire need of them. In fact, according to data from Sensor Tower, in April 2020, first-time downloads of the top 20 mental wellness apps hit 4 million, a 29% increase from the 3.1 million we saw in January.
So, now, even after the pandemic has mostly died down, its effects on the mental health of some individuals still linger, which is why mental health apps are likely to continue to play an essential role in supporting individuals with their mental health needs. And not only that, mental health apps are not only for individuals with mental illnesses; they are also helping users deal with the psychological by-products of their day-to-day activities, such as work-related stress, mood swings, anxiety, or simply keeping their mental well-being in check.
Here are some popular post-pandemic mental health apps:
Calm: Calm is a widespread mental health and sleep app that offers guided meditations and relaxation techniques, sleep aids, and other functionalities to help users improve their sleep quality, target mental issues, and reduce stress and anxiety.
BetterHelp: BetterHelp is a well-being and mental health app that connects users with licensed therapists who are qualified to provide counseling and support for depression, anxiety, and overall wellness via instant messaging, video, or phone calls.
Woebot: Woebot is a mental health app developed by psychologists, software developers, and AI experts at Stanford University. It uses AI and natural language processing to provide cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) exercises and support for users experiencing stress, anxiety, or depression.
Social media-like healthcare apps for doctors
Patients aren’t the only stakeholders within the healthcare system who needed remote attention and had pressing needs during the pandemic. Healthcare professionals also had to seek ways to stay connected, socialize remotely, reach out to colleagues and old classmates, seek connections with potential and existing patients, and find and share professional advice. However, for most physicians, traditional social media platforms weren’t the ideal place to make professional connections, share their ideas, seek advice, or collaborate with other clinicians. Moreover, for medical professionals, pandemic life was extremely convoluted; they didn’t always find the time to sift through Facebook contacts to find colleagues or scroll through countless inane posts to find what they needed.
So, there was a pressing need for healthcare apps that did more than just connect doctors with patients to provide medical services. We needed an easier way for physicians to stay connected with colleagues and classmates and learn and share information within more focused networks. But more importantly, medical professionals that worked during the pandemic needed a place where they could find peer support and advice whenever they needed it, which helped manage stress, decompress, and prevent burnout. As a result, we saw the birth of some social media networks exclusively targeted to physicians. Some of these are:
Figure 1: Figure 1 is a social network for medical professionals to socialize, share their patients’ cases, ask for advice, and collaborate with colleagues worldwide. But more importantly, Figure 1 was the most used platform during the pandemic, where doctors could share information about COVID cases and treatments.
Sermo: Sermo is a social network for healthcare professionals with the same characteristics as Figure 1 but with an impressive user base of over 800,000 members. Sermo proved extremely useful during the pandemic for information sharing and treatment discussions.
The birth of healthcare super apps
One thing the pandemic did, and did well, highlighted the worldwide digital healthcare system’s considerable flaws. When we look at online shopping, for instance, we can find a never-ending stream of apps with outstanding UX design, exceptional navigational flows, cohesive experiences, and seamless integration with other platforms. The same goes for FinTech, social networks, and even dating apps. However, when it comes to healthcare, such features are concerningly elusive. Of course, there are very capable, innovative healthcare apps out there. But most of the time, patients are left to juggle between clunky patient portals, complicated interfaces, outdated doctor directories, and useless, incompatible platforms for lab test results. To say these experiences are frustrating in a day-to-day scenario is an understatement; during the pandemic, they were catastrophic. Thankfully, the pandemic added some pressure on healthcare organizations to pay closer attention and start transforming their digital products so that we’re prepared when we’re faced with another COVID-like challenge. Here’s where healthcare super apps come into play.
Unlike regular healthcare apps, which usually work by doing one thing well, healthcare super apps can take on several tasks within the same platform, thus acting like the one-shop-stop of applications. The beauty of super apps for healthcare is that users don’t have to download a bunch of different apps and learn to use them all separately. Instead, they have everything they need in one app. As a result, super apps can help improve the entire user experience allowing patients faster and better access to mobile healthcare services, improving the interoperability and coordination of medical care services and procedures, reducing costs and times, and providing a fully personalized online healthcare service.
Healthcare super apps typically include essential medical features such as telemedicine and virtual doctor consultations, prescription management and delivery, appointment scheduling, basic health tracking, and access to a directory of healthcare providers. Some popular healthcare super apps are:
Medici: Medici is a healthcare super app that offers virtual consultations with several specialists and other healthcare providers, as well as prescription delivery and appointment scheduling features.
Practo: Practo offers online doctor consultations with various specialists, diagnostic test uploading and downloading prescription delivery, and countless health tracking features.
Undeniably, the COVID pandemic dramatically changed the global healthcare landscape, including the use and development of healthcare apps. With the need to avoid in-person doctor visits to reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19 came an increase in the demand for virtual healthcare services that not only facilitated remote attention but increased the coverage of said services. As a result, we witnessed an instant growth and a high level of innovation that delivered robust healthcare applications and improved remote medical services platforms. Moreover, since the pandemic, we have seen an emergence of new technologies that have facilitated the implementation of preventative care and an approach that will deliver more proactive digital healthcare solutions.
Healthcare apps are no longer a nice-to-have luxury. Instead, they are becoming a must-have for patients and providers alike, so the need for better products is imperative.
As healthcare app developers, we can do our part by building increasingly effective mobile solutions to help reshape the global health industry and meet the growing demand for better experiences with innovation and efficiency.
Let us know if you have any questions or want us to work on making your app idea a reality!