Roughly 7 out of 10 Americans own smartphones, a fact that’s changing the way employees and others use their health benefits.  In 2015, Pew Research Center found that more than half of smartphone owners have used their phone to get health information and do online banking.

That’s just the beginning.

There are more than 40,000 health-related software apps for smartphones and tablets, according to Harvard Health, with thousands more under development. Here’s a look at five trends with the potential to transform healthcare through this ubiquitous technology.

Trend #1: Improved access with do-it-yourself medicine.

Patients are taking “center stage” in their health for the first time with the help of digital technology, cloud computing and medicalized smartphones, according to The Wall Street Journal. Patients can use smart phones to take their blood pressure, do an electrocardiogram, check children for ear infections and even test their own blood.

While hospitals, medical offices and laboratories aren’t going to become obsolete, smartphones are changing the interaction by making patients less dependent on the slow-moving wheels of traditional medicine.

Trend #2: Early intervention to catch small problems before they become health crises.

Preventive care is important because of its ability to screen for potential health issues so patients can be treated in the early stages of disease – for better health outcomes and lower costs.

Some new smartphone apps go beyond prevention to pre-empt illnesses. For example, asthma attacks could be prevented with comprehensive data on air quality, pollen count, physical activity and vital signs including lung function, which can be checked through a smartphone microphone. Similar technology could save lives (and money) by preventing heart failure, seizures, and autoimmune disease attacks.

Beyond physical health, Soma Analytics is developing a smartphone app to monitor mental health by identifying behavioral changes like subtle shifts in the tone of voice, the ability to absorb information and sleep quality.

Trend #3: Leveraging telemedicine to control chronic conditions.

With 86 percent of healthcare spending devoted to patients with one or more chronic conditions, there is a significant push to help patients keep their conditions under control.

Telemedicine is making an impact by allowing doctors and nurses to use smartphones, high-resolution cameras and computers to diagnose, treat and monitor patients with conditions like heart failure, stroke, diabetes and more. Studies show significant cost reductions and improved health.

Last year, more than 15 million Americans benefitted from virtual medical care, according to the American Telemedicine Association. Experts expect this number to increase 30 percent in 2016 as nearly three of four large companies offer telemedicine as part of their employee benefit plan.

Trend #4: Engaging patients with anytime, anywhere access.

Everywhere you look, people are staring at their smartphones. So it’s logical that smartphone apps can help people become more engaged in their health.

Insurance companies are taking note. For example, the United HealthCare Health4Me app not only provides a mobile ID card, it also lets members view claims, search for in-network doctors and compare prices for medical tests and services.

More opportunities are on the horizon: More than half of health care app developers say they’re working on apps to help people improve health conditions.

Trend #5: Encouraging day-in and day-out wellness.

There are more than 165,000 health apps available though the Apple iTunes and Android app stores, with roughly 75 percent of them devoted to wellness or fitness.

Employers are getting on the bandwagon, using mobile apps to keep employees informed, inspired, and engaged in workplace wellness.

This is the perfect time for employers to promote wellness and fitness apps to employees: Encourage employees use smartphone apps to take control of holiday eating. And then, once January arrives, promote apps that motivate employees to keep their New Year’s resolutions.

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