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An App a Day: Smartphone Technology in Healthcare

New developments in health tech and smartphone apps are giving patients more power than ever in the palms of their hands, allowing them to do everything from book appointments and keep in touch with physicians to track medication in their bodies and even produce personal EKGs.

At InterbrandHealth, we consult with healthcare companies on how to best position and shape their brands to drive loyalty, perception, and premium. Successful brands recognize that brand experience strengthens a customer’s emotional relationship to their product. What better way to integrate your brand into consumers’ lives than with relevant smartphone tools? A consumer doesn’t need to have a serious condition to find these exciting and innovative apps pertinent to their lives.

For example, Quest Diagnostics has three apps: one for scheduling, one for physicians, and one where patients can track their own health information. GE Healthymagination’s platform has nine apps and growing, ranging from weight loss and fitness tools to pregnancy and sleep monitoring programs. They even offer a game called Patient Shuffle, which tests the user’s ability to run a hospital. The health craze is extending to consumer brands as well; Nike has been pioneering life data devices like FuelBand for a few years now, and Under Armour just made headlines with its purchase of the exercise app MapMyFitness.

While these programs can be entertaining and useful resources, could the technology ultimately be lifesaving? Physicians are now regularly using apps like Epocrates, a meticulous drug reference system; Isabel, a symptom synthesizer that offers possible causations; and AliveCor, a portable heart monitor that can produce EKGs. There are also apps to see how clean a hospital is, to turn your phone into an otoscope (a device that examines the ear), and to view x-rays and MRIs on your phone anywhere in the world.

More apps are coming down the pike—some are even being produced via crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter, truly demonstrating the public demand for health and wellness apps and information. A new program called Skulpt Aim measures fat percentages and muscle quality for better fitness. Chronic Wellness Tracker helps people with heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions tract symptoms and progress over time. Healthcare companies are even working on developing an ingestible GPS sensor, which can be swallowed with medication and relay information to your smartphone about your intake schedule and how the drug is affecting your body.

As the healthcare industry continues to develop corporate and product branded apps, questions will be raised about the efficacy and efficiency of these technologies. Some may see the one-size-fits-all model as problematic, especially if consumers begin to diagnose themselves incorrectly. But most will see them as helpful, if not essential, to healthy living. As technological improvements are made, strong healthcare brands can recognize and harness the power these tools have in shaping brand experience for their consumers and in increasing loyalty, perception, and marketplace share. Future customers may just be a download away.


Director of Marketing, InterbrandHealth