Our understanding of healthcare is rapidly evolving as new technologies transform the way that healthcare professionals, patients and institutions interact.
The Investing News Network spoke with Patti Ryan, co-founder and CEO of Health QR, about the ways that mobile apps are changing healthcare. She also discussed opportunities for investors to capitalize on this shift.
Patients as active consumers
The healthcare industry can be overwhelming for patients who don’t fully understand the decisions that healthcare professionals are making about their health. That is where Health QR comes in: the company’s app acts as a digital personal health record, and consolidates all of a patient’s prescription information in one place.
Specifically, the app allows users to easily access their information anywhere, making it particularly valuable in unexpected emergency situations where doctors need quick access to prescription history. It also lets users share this information, allowing adults to become active participants in their elderly parents’ healthcare needs. In addition, the app offers reminders for immunizations, prescription refills and early detection screening tests, providing users with greater autonomy over their medical needs.
Those characteristics make the app helpful to almost any possible user; however, Health QR is targeting people between the ages of 50 and 64 with chronic illnesses, as this population is technologically savvy with a real need to monitor prescription information. According to Ryan, the “empowered patient is the only logical solution to the healthcare crisis that we are on the precipice of in North America. We have an aging population, high rates of chronic disease and in Nova Scotia [where Health QR is headquartered], healthcare accounts for close to 50 percent of our provincial budget.”
Technology empowering patients
Patients are uniquely suited to take control of their own healthcare because they are most motivated to find a solution. Ryan believes that “there is nobody more empowered than an ill consumer trying to find solutions to a drastic health issue. Your doctor may be dealing with 500 patients, but you are only focused on your illness and getting better.”
The mobile app format appears to be one of the most effective means of transferring information and authority from doctors and pharmacists to patients. Portable and accessible, apps offer a direct means of empowering patients through knowledge. As Ryan aptly observed, “mobile health initiatives are becoming the dominant way that people want to access their health information. Everything is going mobile these days.”
Big pharma benefits
However, this app isn’t just beneficial for users. Big pharmaceutical companies are also eager to empower patients through mobile technology. Health QR is working on rolling out a medication adherence function on the app. Missing medication is one of the main causes of pharmaceutical-related hospital visits, in addition to costing big pharma companies around $180 billion in lost revenue.
Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) is an early investor in Health QR, and is funding the beta testing for the app’s medication adherence function, which is currently underway. According to Ryan, if Health QR is “able to prove that [it] can actually improve medication adherence, it is a tremendous investment opportunity because there are literally billions of dollars to be saved in the healthcare system. It becomes a much-sought-after application.”
Health QR isn’t the only app company in the healthcare space that is attracting notice from investors. Ryan explained that “there is a tremendous amount of work going on in this area. … right now there is a lot of development going on in various areas of mobile health and digital health technology.”
In particular, she identified the commercialization of health information and the democratization of health information as key trends in this area. Medical devices, such as blood glucose readers and blood pressure readers, that allow patients to manage their own illnesses, coupled with unrestricted access to personal medical information, create “a really powerful tool to help that individual sustain a level of quality health.” Investors looking to the healthcare sector may want to follow Pfizer’s lead, and invest in apps that empower patients through access to personal health information.
Securities Disclosure: I, Morag McGreevey, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.