What comes to your mind when you hear the words “healthcare innovation”? My guess is that most of us think about new medicines or procedures. While these are important, there is another giant innovation in health care that may help an even greater number of people. I’m talking, of course, about the smart phone.

Now you may be thinking “Bill, how will my phone become an important part of managing my health?” To that question I have one word: apps. The growth of mobile apps has been astronomical. Studies like this one from research2guidance can help us visualize the potential growth of mobile apps in healthcare specifically (500million by 2015!). But a lot of times what’s most helpful for me, is to imagine how ideas like this play out in real life scenarios. So let’s walk through a couple.

First, let’s think about someone with a chronic disease. By definition, a chronic disease is a medical condition that lasts for many years and requires regular doctor visits to monitor the disease and adjust treatments.  Think diabetes, cancer, COPD, etc… According to the CDC 50% of American adults have a chronic disease.  Caring for the conditions associated with a chronic disease can be much more effective if your doctor knows more about your symptoms and measures on a daily basis (i.e. blood sugar or blood pressure). If you were able to submit that info through your phone for your doctor to see, he/she would have a more complete picture of your overall health which should lead to better treatment and care.

Here’s another scenario. Let’s say you go to the hospital for surgery or some other procedure.  When it’s time to go home, you’re often given a prescription for mediations and lots of recovery instructions.  However, when you’re home, it’s difficult for the care team at that hospital to know how recovery is going. What if there was smart phone app customized for your procedure where you could log your progress or check in to let your doctor know you’ve taken your medicines.

At HCA, we are excited about the future because we believe innovation will create vast new horizons of opportunity to better serve our patients. The specific opportunity to use smart phones to provide better care is especially intriguing. Do you use any mobile apps to help manage your health? I’d love to hear about it. What features do you think a healthcare mobile app has to have to be successful?