So, in September, IBM hosted a hackathon at one of its U.K. offices where teams of software engineers competed to design the best app for Emerson and his family.
The winning team designed a dashboard in the form of an iPad mounted on Emerson’s wheelchair. The app would monitor the toddler’s body temperature, heart rate and sweat levels and send out alerts if there were any abnormal readings.
Dearsley said the app would allow her son to live a more normal life. “Emerson has complex needs but they’re needs that shouldn’t stop him from being a normal two-year-old or a normal child,” she said. “So with an app it would allow him to continue to follow his peers.”
Emerson’s story is just one example of how apps are transforming the digital health industry. A 2015 report from Monitor Deloitte cited mobile health apps as the fastest growing segment in the industry. The report estimated that the U.K.’s mobile health app market will be worth roughly £250 million ($328 million) by 2018.
“The app itself is dependent on how it links with other things,” said Karen Taylor, research director at Deloitte’s U.K. Centre for Health Solutions.
Taylor said apps are most successful when they offer a program designed to track its specific user’s health, like the apps envisioned for Emerson.