Using a Telemedicine App on Android and Apple

checkmark Fact checked Medically reviewed by: Dr. Utibe Effiong, Board Certified Internal Medicine Physician
Updated: May 7, 2021

 

Telemedicine is here to stay and patients’ reliance on virtual visits amid COVID-19 resulted in a notable spike in telehealth utilization. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in-person Medicare patient visits dropped while telehealth visits increased from 0.1% in February 2020 to 43.5% in April.

We’re getting more used to Zooming with our doctors, visiting patient portals for secure messages with medical recommendations, and using remote monitoring devices that capture biometrics like blood pressure and deliver data to providers. With that has come a slew of telemedicine apps on Android and Apple.

Ultimately, these apps and telehealth in general are giving patients the power to make choices about who cares for them, along with when and how they receive care, says Sebastian Seiguer, CEO and co-founder of emocha Mobile Health, a telehealth platform backed by Johns Hopkins.

There are healthcare provider apps that connect patients to electronic medical records, secure messaging and virtual video visits. There are wellness apps that track activity, and niche apps ranging from maternity care to managing diabetes management. Some apps are supported with nurse practitioners, pharmacists and physicians on the “back end” addressing data that is collected.

“Patients tell us how they are doing in that video and we respond back to motivate them to keep going and also bring in a nurse or pharmacist when problems arise,” Seiguer says.

Telemedicine apps are an integral technology tool in the growing telehealth sector. Here’s what you should know about how to use telehealth applications and what types of telemedicine apps are available on Apple and Android.

How Do Telemedicine Apps Work?

Just like any app you’d buy on Google Play or the Apple App Store, you download the telehealth application and gain access to it on your smartphone or tablet. There are many different types of telehealth apps, including those that help you organize medical information and some that track calories. As the Mayo Clinic points out, there are also personal health apps for scheduling medication reminders and recording vital signs.

Can You Do Telehealth On Your Phone?

Telehealth apps are convenient and accessible because you can download them on your smartphone and tablet, and then you’ve got a health tool at your fingertips wherever you go. Many healthcare systems develop their own apps to give patients easy, secure access to lab results, upcoming appointments and medical history. This helps patients be more informed and involved in their healthcare.

From apps you can get for free or purchase from Android or Apple to healthcare system apps that link you to your doctor’s telemedicine appointments, the ability to do telehealth on your phone can be empowering. Think about it: You can make appointments, measure your blood pressure, ask your provider a question, request a prescription refill, set up medication reminders, and participate in live video appointments from the comfort of your home.

The thing is, these apps are not a do-everything-healthcare solution. “You have to connect the dots,” says Talya Miron-Shatz, Ph.D., a consultant, researcher of medical decision-making, and author of “Your Life Depends on It: What You Can Do to Make Better Choices About Your Health.”

Yes, you can do telehealth on your phone. But technology does not completely replace people in the healthcare arena.

“There are many platforms that will monitor what is happening to you, such as measuring your blood sugar levels and telling you when there is a spike,” Miron-Shatz says. “An app can point to potential health problems, but then you need to figure out what behaviors are causing this.”

She continues, “The question is, now what do you do? The app does not tell you that. And, do you know why you are spiking? We cannot just assume that giving people information will solve a problem. A layer that can be missing is explaining information and looking at what the patient is making of this. What should they do next?”

Some apps do have providers behind the scenes, such as emocha Mobile Health, hospital systems’ apps that connect patients to providers, and apps like GoodRx that connect people to telemedicine visits and prescriptions, to name a few. As Seiguer says, “It’s rare that the technology actually drives the health benefit by itself. You really do need humans in a lot of healthcare in the same way that, yes, with Uber you can call a ride, but there’s still a person driving.”

What Apps are Used for Telemedicine?

There are a number of telehealth app categories, including:

  • Video apps: “These are communication pathways like Zoom, Skype or FaceTime that open up a conversation with a provider,” Seiguer says. “Instead of seeing a doctor in person, you can now see them on video.”
  • Remote patient monitoring: Chronic disease management is aided by apps that can include connected devices like a blood pressure monitor. “In addition to messaging back and forth with a healthcare system, the app is also capturing biometric information like blood pressure, heart rate or, in the case of our platform, whether you took your medications,” Seiguer says.
  • Wellness and fitness apps: How many steps did you take today? Did you meet an exercise goal to work out for 30 minutes? Are you properly hydrated? How many calories did you consume? Wellness and fitness apps on Android and Apple promote a healthy lifestyle by tracking activity and allowing you to input the foods you eat to calculate caloric intake.
  • Niche telehealth apps: You can find an app for many conditions, whether you’re concerned about heart health, diabetes, pregnancy, or more.
  • Mindfulness and meditation apps: These apps could be considered wellness, but because of the popularity of apps like Calm and Headspace, and the proliferation of apps dedicated toward reducing stress and helping us feel more present, you could break out mindfulness apps into a category of their own. According to the global app authority Sensor Tower, April 2020’s top app downloads were Calm with 3.9 million downloads, Headspace with 1.5 million and Meditopia with 1.4 million.

Mobile app use spiked in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic, up 40% according to the digital market research firm App Annie. A few of the top Apple telemedicine apps include Telehealth, Amwell, Teladoc, Doctor on Demand, and HeyDoctor by GoodRx. Android’s top telemedicine apps of 2020 include: Doctor on Demand, Dialogue, Lemonaid Health, Babylon, Amwell and LiveHealth.

Telehealth apps are another valuable tool in a patient’s tool chest, but “the patient-doctor relationship is still important, and still seeing your doctor regularly is key, too” Seigeur says.

Expect to see more telehealth platforms enter the market. As with any technology, telehealth apps continue to evolve based on what healthcare consumers are asking for and how providers need to interact digitally with patients. Seiguer says, “As patients become more savvy, these apps will react in the same way that any business would and fix things that don’t work.”

Experts

These experts offered insight into using telemedicine apps on Android or Apple:

Sebastian Seiguer, CEO and co-founder of emocha Mobile Health

Talya Miron-Shatz, Ph.D., a consultant, researcher of medical decision-making, and author of “Your Life Depends on It: What You Can Do to Make Better Choices About Your Health.”