Nearly 81% of Americans use a smartphone in the United States, and that number is projected to grow to 87% by 2023. It’s no surprise then that mobile technology continues to disrupt almost every industry, and healthcare is no exception.
We’re not just talking about smartphones and the whole slew of health-related apps that are available for download. Mobile health technology includes cloud-based electronic health records (EHRs), wearables, telemedicine solutions, biometric sensors, and more.
The Power of Mobile
The difference between healthcare and other industries is that with healthcare, mobile technology can literally mean the difference between life and death. For example, a patient presents to the emergency room with signs of a stroke. Mobile health technology can provide an attending physician with access to a stroke specialist, enabling swift and accurate intervention. Or think of a mobile app that can tell an emergency room physician everything they need to know about a patient (e.g., previous surgeries, allergies, and more) when that person is unconscious. Again, life or death.
Mobile health technology can also bridge geographic barriers to connect a patient with cancer to a world-renowned oncologist located five hours away. It can help a physician monitor a patient’s blood glucose daily without requiring in-office visits. It can empower a patient to lose weight and normalize their blood pressure or reverse their diabetes. The possibilities are truly endless.
The impact of mobile technology in healthcare can be felt throughout a patient’s care journey. It starts with prevention. Consumer-facing mobile apps provide education and promote health awareness. Mobile health technology also helps providers diagnose and manage treatment even from a remote location. Finally, technology in healthcare puts patients in the driver’s seat, enabling them to collect data and self-manage their health. Each of these steps in the journey are ripe with opportunities to integrate mobile technology to improve outcomes and reduce costs.
There are several reasons why mobile devices are transforming healthcare:
1. Healthcare consumerism
As in all industries, consumers—and particularly Generation Z and Millennials—want information and other conveniences (e.g., consumer reviews, online bill pay, and the ability to book appointments online) at their fingertips.
2. Shift to value-based care
Healthcare providers are looking for ways to drive down costs and make services more affordable. Under fee-for-service payment models, there are no financial incentives for providers to use this technology because outcomes and cost don’t dictate payment. Now, with value-based payments, that’s changing. The doors of opportunity are open for the emerging field of mobile health.
3. Increased focus on social determinants of health
Mobile technology, for example, can overcome barriers such as lack of transportation (Think: Uber and Lyft) or geographic location (Think: Telemedicine), both of which can affect access to care.
Mobile Transformation in Healthcare
Just how far-reaching is the impact of mobile technology in healthcare? Consider the following ways in which mobile devices are transforming healthcare:
1. Patient-physician communication
EHRs, for example, enable patients to communicate with providers through a secure portal, and many providers are also starting to venture into texting. Streamlined communication helps patients take quick action, whether it be setting up an in-person appointment, continuing to monitor a potential side effect of a medication, or consulting with a specialist. It also means patients can easily ask questions for clarification, which is critical considering that 80% of what doctors tell patients is forgotten by the time the patient reaches the parking lot.
2. Cost reduction
According to the 2015 HIMSS Mobile Technology Survey, the majority (54%) of providers using mobile devices to engage patients achieved cost savings. For example, mobile health technology—specifically remote monitoring—is helping physicians reduce the average hospital stay in the United States. As part of a pilot study, an Arizona hospital gave biometric wearables and smartphones to cardiac patients, pulmonary patients, and patients needing post-operative care. The result? The hospital saw a reduction in charges per patient by an average of $92,317 over six months. In addition, the average days of hospitalization decreased from nearly 14 days to slightly more than five days.
Likewise, a Mayo Clinic study found a 40% decrease in readmissions for cardiac rehabilitation patients using mobile health technology to record, monitor, and report daily healthcare data and activities.
Telemedicine also reduces costs associated with healthcare delivery that can sometimes be prohibitive for the most vulnerable patients (e.g., transportation from the nursing home to the provider, taking time off work, or arranging child or elder care).
3. Streamline efficiency, improve accuracy
Healthcare professionals use mobile apps and devices in a variety of ways to manage information, improve clinical decision-making, and even and even access clinical research and medical education. Many EHRs, for example, include apps that enable physicians to access records anywhere, anytime. EHRs include alerts and up-to-date information that prevents medication errors and enhances patient safety.
Data analytics inherent in many EHRs also help providers analyze large amounts of data with a simple click of the mouse, improving diagnostic accuracy. Another bonus? No more illegible physician handwriting, making it easier for nurses and others to deliver accurate treatment. EHRs also enable medical coding experts—and even practice managers and others—to work from home, thus improving efficiency and productivity.
All of this technology continues to improve healthcare delivery.
4. Improve medication complianceNot only do EHRs enable physicians to prescribe medications electronically, but patient portals enable patients to request refills within seconds at any time of the day or night. In addition, there are a variety of consumer-facing mobile apps that help patients manage their medications effectively. All of this helps to improve outcomes and reduce costs in the long-run.
Forward-thinking providers have already begun to explore opportunities to integrate mobile health technology. Doing so can reduce costs and engage patients, making it a win-win investment. Providers and others have only begun to scratch the surface of the impact of mobile technology in healthcare.
Editor’s note: To learn more about mobile technology and medication management, watch this webinar: Optimizing Medication Management with Meds 360.