Statistics can often appear surprising but meaningless in isolation but put a few together and trends start to emerge.
Here’s a fascinating pairing – almost every other child in the UK has a mobile phone; almost 44 million healthcare apps were downloaded last year.
Let’s extend it. More than 50,000 nursing jobs have been lost or are under threat since 2010 plus the NHS is making £20 billion worth of savings over the next two years.
So, we have a deep hole of healthcare provision and a booming tech market ready to fill it. Another stat? OK then – a report revealed that revenues for healthcare apps increased from $718 million to $1.2 billion between 2011 and 2012.
iTunes has around 40,000 health apps although the vast majority are lifestyle-centric, advising us what to eat, drink, how many steps to take, where to hike and what to wear (and where to buy them) while doing so.
But there is an emerging market of targeted applications medic view as being crucial to the future of healthcare
One of the latest apps is Monster Manor by Ayogo that uses mobile gaming to encourage kids with Type 1 diabetes to check their blood glucose levels. It looks fun, effective and the essence of where tech can bridge the gap between medicine’s clunky delivery and childhood attention deficit.
The colourful, appealing graphics de-stress the monitoring process and could make it second nature for children to stay on top of a task that helps them avoid complications as they grow. Perfect.
But with the explosive growth of apps comes the question of oversight. Who prescribes them, who checks them, where’s the long term research?
The short answer is there is no official regulatory body. Not always a bad thing but as a parent or adult you may want some assurance that an app is actually good for you.
Verification agencies exist but the tech sector may need to combine to find some form of kite mark – without establishing the dead hand of a quango – to make selection easy.
Mobile connectivity is proven to help check blood pressure, pulse, blood sugar levels and as capabilities increase so will the benefit to the individual and the NHS. If we can move the worried well who clog up GP surgeries on-line for simple self-diagnoses then huge swathes of time and resources can be freed up.
The cash-strapped NHS views apps as nothing short of revolutionary. And, although private creativity will always outstrip ponderous official progress, it needs to make sure it can keep pace with developments so the creativity of developers is harnessed.
Something like Monster Manor, and loads of others, are prime examples of technology meeting a clear need and going beyond by adapting behaviour.
With the number of young children who have iPads propped up in front of them rather than books, it is clear a future generation of switched on healthcare consumers is ready to roll.
App creativity offers one of the brightest lights in a depressingly bleak landscape of dwindling resources and healthcare provision. The real equation is matching that pioneering excitement with clinical need, efficacy and safety.