The powerful combination of wireless technologies and use of mobile has revamped the face of health service delivery across the globe.
This revolution can be attributed to a powerful combination of factors – the continued growth in the numbers of mobile phone usage across the globe, rapid advances in mobile technologies and mobile applications and a drastic rise in new opportunities for the integration of mobile health into healthcare services.
What is mobile health?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mHealth or mobile health is a term used to describe the practice of using mobile technologies – mobile phones, text messaging services or applications – to support public health and medicine. The ease of access and mobility provided by the use of mobile technology offers immense opportunities for the healthcare industry to address one of the most pressing global challenges: making healthcare more accessible, faster, better and cheaper.
The ACA has put patients at the center of healthcare services. The concept of patient-centric healthcare, “care anywhere” is evolving and now the patient’s well-being along with high-quality healthcare services have become the defining factors for treatment and operational policies. Patient-centric healthcare is largely dependent on advanced digital technologies. The Americans are “always on” the Internet, whether on laptops, smartphones or tablets. Digital, therefore, connects patients, healthcare providers and payers with access to the tools that can help rationalize a healthcare system that is based on the patient-centric approach. Easily accessible, scientifically correct and accurate information empowers patients to become better-educated about their diseases/conditions, learn about the correct ways to improve their overall health, find the best practitioners and factor costs into their decision-making. Healthcare providers can have access into the patient-mind-sets through various digital technologies, Internet and social media platforms. This can help them make informed decisions that are tailored to patient needs.
The mHealth universe
Mobile technologies include the following:
With the proliferation of mobile devices with advanced web-browsing capability, users now seek an optimized experience on their devices. It’s quite obvious that users won’t return to a website if it doesn’t load properly on their mobile devices.
A mobile website is one that has been optimized for mobile viewing. Mobile-friendly healthcare business websites promise high-level service efficiency to customers in the mobile segment.
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Statistics have proved that in the present-day digital scenario, mobile phones have superseded desktop Internet usage. The percentage of people using mobile phones at different times is:
- 61 percent while at home
- 27 percent at work
- 23 percent while visiting friends or family at home
- 20 percent while out of town
- 16 percent while in a doctor’s office
(Source: Google Think)
Medical applications have evolved as useful tools in the practice of medicine at the point of care, in addition to their use in mobile clinical communication. They allow HCPs to make rapid decisions, enhance the quality of data management and accessibility and increase practice efficiency and knowledge.
Healthcare professionals can use medical devices and apps for many purposes, most of which can be grouped under five broad categories:
- Health record maintenance and access
- Communications and consulting
- Reference and information gathering
- Medical education
Per a PWC report on “Emerging mHealth,” mobile applications and services can include, among other things, remote patient monitors, video conferencing, online consultations, personal healthcare devices, wireless access to patient records and prescriptions. There is a diverse set of stakeholders of mHealth that include patients and patient advocacy groups; healthcare professionals (doctors, dentists, physiotherapists, nurses and other professionals); institutions where patient care is provided (hospitals, clinics and others); pharmaceutical, biopharma and medical device companies; technology companies (devices, applications, software, infrastructure, data analytics and others); telecommunication services providers; NGOs; regulators; and policymakers.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that roughly 500 million people globally are already using personal healthcare ‘apps’ (mobile software applications). This number is predicted to grow rapidly to over 1 billion by 2018. mHealth has the potential to benefit society by providing many benefits as it can reduce the costs of providing healthcare, assist in improving and maintaining the quality of care and can help reach patients in even the most remote locations. By using mHealth, practices can enhance productivity, reduce failure-to-respond rates drastically, increase information access and expand communication channels with patients and potential patients.