Healthcare: There’s an app for that

Dapo TomoriDigital doesn’t necessarily mean impersonal. At least not in the healthcare industry, according to Dapo Tomori, SF ’09, Senior Director of Medical Affairs, CNS, at Takeda Pharmaceuticals. “Digital tools give us the opportunity to personalize care to an unprecedented level,” he says. “Digital can be a better way to get information to patients, physicians, payers, and policymakers so that all of them, individually and in concert, can make more informed decisions with better outcomes.”

Dr. Tomori believes that the healthcare industry has a responsibility to continually tap the latest digital capabilities—a broad spectrum of technologies that are increasing the pertinence and personalization of information. “It’s important to channel the latest innovations in science and medicine to improve real-world patient and population outcomes. The digitization of the healthcare ecosystem improves communication on multiple levels, and communication is at the root of so many advances in healthcare. Technology innovation can enable what we call P4 medicine – predictive, preemptive, personalized, and participatory.”

It’s critically important, Dr. Tomori notes, to take into consideration behavioral factors and societal trends when developing technology-enabled patient solutions and gives as an example the current impulse to simplify our digital lives. “Our messaging, music, camera, and GPS are integrated now into a single device—our phone—which we carry with us everywhere out of necessity. People don’t want to have to keep track of additional devices, so inventing a new handheld gadget may be less helpful than inventing a phone app that accomplishes the same task.”

Enter the virtual health coach

Could a phone app save a life? “Thanks to phone apps,” Dr. Tomori says, “doctors and medical institutions will be able to check up on patients virtually and call them if they detect a problem.” He adds that a phone app can serve as a virtual coach in helping manage health issues, send reminders to take medicine, keep track of dosages, and inform the patient of contraindications. An app also could be used to passively monitor symptoms and treatment responses outside of healthcare settings. Dr. Tomori thinks that such passive sensing technologies will greatly facilitate continuity of care beyond the walls of healthcare institutions. He foresees an increased use of phones as patient monitors, tracking vital signs, even detecting if a patient has not been active for a number of hours.

When designed intelligently, accessibly, and attractively, Dr. Tomori says, apps make it possible for doctors to practice better, for patients to more effectively manage their care, and for payers to bill more accurately. “Ultimately,” he says, “it all adds up to a smarter, healthier world.”