As patients today book online appointments, follow healthcare providers on social media, use the Internet to search about their health and experiment with smartphone apps to track their vitals –healthcare is all set for a new era of digitalization with mHealth.
Mobile technology has come a long way, which is quite evident with the worldwide exponential increase in the number of smartphone users. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes mHealth, or mobile health, as 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.
Healthcare users now expect tailored content to satisfy their thirst for knowledge. While social media channels also offer opportunities to track the online audience, mobile channels open up other extensive features such as push notifications, SMS, geo-location and preference settings. Along with all these features comes the most convenient side – the ease of using mobile applications and Internet services whenever, wherever and however users wish to. The ever-increasing sophistication and development of smartphones is a catalyst driving this change further. Mobile health apps, activity trackers, algorithm-based symptom checkers and so on – these are the new entrants in the field of healthcare.
mHealth clearly demonstrates the power to benefit all players across the healthcare value chain – healthcare organizations, intermediaries and society in general. mHealth provides greater value to patients as it facilitates communication with providers and also enables them to have easy access to trustworthy medical information. On the other hand, it helps healthcare providers deliver high-quality solutions like access to clinical data at any time and place, which facilitates better overall patient care.
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In the long run, mHealth holds the power to transfer broader benefits to society. Easier access to information sharing to identify appropriate treatments, timely diagnostics of potential epidemics and management of associated risk and immediate access to important research breakthroughs in the causes of certain diseases or treatment options can contribute toward building a healthier society.
Mobile technologies have already changed, and will continue to change, the lives of millions around the world. The path ahead for healthcare providers is to adapt and innovate for providing solutions to meet consumer expectations through the latest technology and mobile solutions. In the highly competitive healthcare market, providers who will not pay heed to the mobility needs of today’s “always-on” digitally empowered patients could lose them to competitors.