Mobile Forecast: the Next 4 years in Medical App Development

November 18, 2016 - 8 minutes read

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Mobile tech revolutionized transportation, finances, and communication. In the short span of five years, mobile apps have gone from a novelty to a primary life tool for the majority of Americans.

So why haven’t medical app developers been able to revolutionize the medical industry — and when can we expect it to happen?

While studies have shown that MedTech apps have the potential to improve or even save lives in the fields of preventative care and passive patient monitoring, outdated legal policies and backward establishment opinion have held back many of these revolutionary products and systems.

Helping push medical app products into the mainstream is a big part of our objective here at Dogtown Media, where we see MedTech as the industry with the most direct ability to change lives. With that in mind, making sure developers continue working on life-saving products is a moral obligation.

However long it takes for medical law to catch up with tech, one thing is for certain: the future of medical care will be centered around mobile tech. The faster we reach that future, the better.

In today’s post we’ll take a look at some of the opportunities and roadblocks facing MedTech app developers currently, and how we can expect the situation to change over the next five years.

Mythbusters: MedTech isn’t “frivolous”

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There are two common problems opponents to medical tech have: First, that it’s expensive. Second, that the stakes are too high for young startups to handle.

Both these opinions are disproved by the facts. So far as expense, it’s true that developing and implementing medical products is expensive. However, the saved time and resources these mobile products create more than pays for itself.

When it comes to the dangers of medical mishap, it’s true that the stakes are high in medicine. (As for privatization, this is an absurd complaint when you look at the private industries currently controlling the US medical system.)

Lives are lost every year in hospitals across the US thanks to oversights, clerical errors, and doctor confusion. Far from making this worse, medical apps have the potential to avoid those problems in the first place, improving the lives of doctors and patients alike.

For a case study, consider research done on the use of MedTech products for Alzheimers patients at Pixie Scientific. Connecting products like adult diapers to the cloud allowed this startup to become aware of recurring, painful, and expensive issues like UTIs before they became detectable by regular doctor checkups. The use of a simple app and cloud-connected device could essentially save patients thousands of dollars, not to mention emotional and physical agony. (UTIs are a common problem for patients with compromised mental ability.)

Medicare, eHealth, and Insurance issues

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One of the biggest roadblocks facing MedTech app developers in the US is medicare, and the restrictive anti-tech stance held by lawmakers. In spite of insistent education programs and lobbying done on behalf of the US tech industry by ACT The App Association, updates to MACRA this year failed to make significant allowances for MedTech products to be covered by insurance or to be incorporated into hospitals, essentially locking patients in the past.

This is a big loss for patients and developers, and a big win for the giant corporations that profit from the obscenely wasteful US medical industry, where even basic functions like record-keeping often make zero use of the next-generation tech products available.

In order to create more startup opportunities in healthcare, app developers must continue to battle for their right to serve patients who are failed by the current insurance and hospital system. Until that time, the best MedTech products will only reach the small percentage of the population that can afford them.

Wearables will revolutionize preventative medicine

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Wearables and preventative medicine are one area where the tech industry has been able to make considerable headway, despite resistance from the establishment. The popularity of devices like Fitbits have made the “quantified self” movement mainstream, putting tools for preventative healthcare into the hands of patients directly.

In coming years, advances in DNA reading and other advanced diagnostics tools will allow patients to do home-testing for genetic disorders and hard-to-catch diseases like cancer.

Tele-monitoring and medication management

Connecting wearable devices to the cloud will also allow for advanced patient monitoring, which will bring the cost of care down to a fraction of current prices for elderly and mentally disabled patients, who generally require expensive in-person care for basic needs like medication management.

Tele-monitoring is expected to be one of the first big wins for startups entering the medical space, as the tech tools needed are relatively simple and easy to understand even for tech-resistant doctors.

Political pressures: bipartisan medical policies

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The outcome of the 2016 election has had an undeniable effect on tech companies, and Los Angeles medical app developers are no exception.

While GOP stances on tech have been divisive, medical developers are cautiously optimistic that relaxed regulations promised by the Trump administration could create new opportunities for startups currently held out of the medical industry by poorly-considered regulations. Regardless of how insurance industry overhauls affect individual patients, small and nimble tech companies can be expected to weather any storms while taking advantage of a more open marketplace.

The pharmaceutical Goliath

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The pharmaceutical industry is notoriously wasteful, maintaining a too-close-for-comfort relationship with the insurance industry. Startups that find ways to circumnavigate the pharmaceutical industry and bring down drug prices could reap some of the biggest rewards in coming years.

Pundits may say it’s impossible, but they said the same thing about the stock trading industry just a couple years ago. Meanwhile, startups like Robinhood have taken that very fortress by storm, leaving the “experts” scratching their heads.

Our prediction is that consumers won’t stand for current inflated prices much longer, especially as the prices for other basic needs drop thanks to efficiency-boosting mobile app products in other industries.

The big picture: good apps improve quality of life

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Ultimately, the goal of app developers isn’t to simply make money. The goal of most successful developers is to change the world for the better.

The medical industry will offer myriad opportunities for techies to accomplish that goal in coming years.

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