The Healthcare Industry and Mobile Technology
Mobile health technology (mHealth) is empowering patients today to engage in their own healthcare by giving them access to tools which can help then manage chronic conditions and even be diagnosed by physicians. Physicians have been uncertain about the impact of mHealth on their practices but are increasingly more optimistic as payors have begun to reimburse for televisits.
There have been many studies showing the efficiency and efficacy of telemedicine and virtual physician visits. However, we are in the very early phase of developing and optimizing these solutions. As clinicians begin receiving reimbursement for televisits or as they assume capitated risk on populations, they will push for greater functionality and ease of use for these applications.
Changing the way practices conduct business
Since mobile technologies are having a profound impact on the way healthcare information is consumed, it is also impacting the business processes which provide this information.
It is no longer enough for a medical practice to look at systems in their traditional silos. Mobile-based systems can cut across multiple systems to provide information which is contextual, use aggregated patterns and insights from disparate data, use psychosocial information in the form of demographics and behavior patterns, and provide unified content.
mHealth and home-based care will be indispensable to the healthcare systems of the future especially as healthcare providers assume capitated risk and are incentivized to deploy lower cost modes of care delivery .
As a result, medical practices will need to transform how they do business. Patients are looking for options to have better access to a doctor when they need it, reduce their wait times and stay informed on latest healthcare updates for their specific set of medical issues.
Since mobile phones and mobile apps have become a part of the patient’s daily lives, there are several activities in a medical practice that could be streamlined using mobile technology and result in positive patient experience.
Overcoming obstacles to adopting mHealth
While mHealth can be beneficial to a practice, there are still obstacles to the widespread adoption.
One reason adoption of mHealth has been slow is because Medicare has historically not reimbursed for it. Only now has Medicare started to offer reimbursement for chronic care management and some televisits. The real power of mHealth is as a way of connecting with patients and their care providers outside the hospital and physician’s office. mHealth can be particularly useful to manage chronic disease patients within their homes and outside the acute care system. As value based reimbursement becomes more widespread, we will see mHealth become a key tool in lowering the cost of care for these patients.
Since mobile devices are becoming omnipresent, when applications properly connect patients to provider practices through these devices, we can begin to provide support and encouragement to patients outside the ordinary office visit. This can not only lead to improved compliance to care plans, but improved efficiencies in the practice.
Another reason why we have not seen widespread use of mHealth is because healthcare is simply not an aggressive early adopter of mobile technologies when compared to some other industry sectors. For instance, consumers can pay bills online, watch television via their cable provider and even unlock their car using various technologies. But few providers have taken advantage of mobile technology to benefit their patients. The global population expects to use mobile devices to manage their lives, and for an increasing segment, that includes their health as well.
The Research and Markets mHealth trends report predicts a compound annual growth rate of 61 percent by 2017 with a $26 billion revenue to be derived predominantly from mHealth hardware sales and services. This report also illustrates the three phases of mHealth development: trial, commercialization and integration.
Currently, the industry is entering into the commercialization phase which is characterized by the mass development of solutions, business models and a focus on private companies and consumers. During commercialization, mobile health applications will become an integrated part of care plans.
Today, mobile health applications regularly fail. Frequently, either a healthcare entity fails to develop a user-friendly application or a technology provider creates an application with no viable business case. Unless technology service providers effectively work with the healthcare industry, mobile health will face adoption challenges.
The final biggest issue with mHealth adoption is cost. Most useful healthcare applications require integration with legacy clinical or financial systems. Many systems used in healthcare were designed to stand alone and lack rapid integration capabilities.
The Future of mHealth
Despite the obstacles we presented, the adoption of mHealth is inevitable as a major component of healthcare, especially as mobile technologies in home and clinical settings become a ‘norm’ for healthcare providers, and standards for interoperability of these devices—and consumer mobile technology—are established.
To gain support for mobile health, practices will need to clearly tie mobile projects to a business case. As a result, many leading healthcare organizations have taken a progressive outlook towards mHealth and have established it as part of their strategic roadmap to deliver differentiated and enhanced customer value.
The real value of mobile technology will come from its ability leverage cloud-based analytics to convert collected data into valuable information in real time. Patients will receive instant feedback and their care plan can be adjusted accordingly. Providers will see both trended and current clinical data, allowing them to make the best possible clinical decisions.
Payers, too, will benefit because they will be able to identify and provide services to high-risk members in real time. All decisions are made using the best information. Mobile technology is the connective tissue that will collect and disseminate information to the healthcare ecosystem.