The smartphone revolution that has swept over the world over the past ten years has left virtually no area of our lives untouched. Indeed, these days, it seems as if smartphones are absolutely everywhere, almost extensions of ourselves. As such, they have become a part of our lives in ways that would have been previously unimaginable.
One such example is the notion of mHealth or mobile health. Mobile healthcare has become a staple of modern-day medical care, as technology and has the ability to positively impact the practice of medicine and health care organizations in numerous ways.
What, specifically, is mHealth? And how can it positively benefit health care organizations? Here’s a look.
What, exactly, is mHealth?
First, it’s important to note that mHealth is not a medical definition, and different organizations may look at the term in slightly different ways. However, for the purposes of this article (and for the purposes of most other organizations), mHealth is defined as healthcare administration that is supported by mobile devices. While this used to mean phones and apps, it now includes an array of smart devices, like smartwatches.
This, of course, has the potential to affect literally billions of people, with an estimated 4.68 billion people on the planet owning cell phones in 2019. Furthermore, this is a field that is rapidly expanding. In 2016, the entire revenue in this field generated approximately $1.77 billion. By 2021, that number is expected to grow to $19.39 billion. Clearly, there is momentum and exponential growth in the area of mHealth.
As you can see by these statistics, it is apparent that the potential for mHealth is extensive and growing on practically a daily basis. They can help patients keep better track of their own healthcare, and they can act as physician extenders, assisting doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals in the administration of a variety of types of medicine.
Benefits of mHealth to Healthcare Organizations
Not only can mHealth assist patients, but they can also help healthcare organizations in many ways. Many of these are specifically tied to patient care, data collection and reducing physician paperwork and data collection. All of these tasks enhance efficiency and allow healthcare practitioners to concentrate on more important tasks.
As anyone with a smartwatch or smartphone knows, these technological wonders have the ability to automatically track a slew of health data. Even the most basic phone can track steps and stairs climbed, but thanks to smartwatches and other related devices, additional data can be tracked. For example, the Apple Watch can track your heart rate (including irregular beats), if you have a fall, your ECG and allow medical professionals access to your health data and emergency contacts. Other watches have similar capabilities.
Healthcare organizations can leverage this data to determine times that you may be suffering from medical emergencies. That data can then be used to provide better patient care or help determine treatment plans for patients.
Ensures Patient Compliance
mHealth can be used to ensure that a patient actually follows their treatment plans. Apps can be used and alarms can be set that remind patients to take their medication, stand up and exercise, etc. Furthermore, many apps have specific data entry requirements. For diabetics who must test their sugar or others, these apps can serve as reminders for individuals to take care of themselves and do what the doctor ordered.
This is one of the core benefits of mHealth to healthcare organizations: They can save you work and improve patient care in the process. Thanks to mobile technology’s reminder system, healthcare organizations can worry less about ensuring that patients are actually taking their medication or following a prescribed treatment plan. The time that is spent contacting patients and making sure that they are taking their treatment can be redirected towards more productive uses.
Cut Down On Paperwork
Paperwork is the bane of every healthcare organization’s existence. Though necessary, it is a huge time suck, and while the switch to electronic health records has been positive, it still requires that data be entered and monitored.
If the data can be collected reliably and extracted securely, it can automatically collect much of the necessary data, allowing healthcare organizations to cut down on time and bureaucratic effort. This, of course, allows for organizations to better spend their time in a more efficient manner.
The switch to electronic health records has been somewhat revolutionary within the medical field, as it allows for practitioners across multiple fields of practice and offices to have easy access to a patient’s critical healthcare data. However, thanks to mHealth, that data is even more easily accessible.
Furthermore, depending on the specific type of mHealth platform used, the data available is not necessarily limited to just prescriptions. Doctor notes, patient instructions, and even medical imagery can be shared and stored on apps. This ensures that healthcare organizations of all types can access critically important data.
Allowing EHR access via mobile apps can ensure that an accurate medical history can be given by a patient to a healthcare organization. This, in turn, removes the possibility of error and saves time.
Enhanced Communication with Patients
Any healthcare organization is almost constantly being bombarded with calls from patients. Many of these questions are relatively mundane and can be answered quickly, but they are still time-consuming. mHealth can remove many of these concerns by allowing for chat apps that can allow a patient to get quick and easy answers to any of their medical questions. Additionally, many healthcare organizations now have specific departments and staff available to answer these questions. This is more efficient and can save a healthcare organization valuable time.
Health insurance apps have also become largely available and are considered part of the broad mHealth umbrella. A good health insurance app can contain a variety of information about coverage, available practitioners and more. Again, this can save patients and healthcare organizations invaluable time and effort by ensuring that patients have easy access to the types of coverage for which they are eligible.
Many concerns remain over mHealth, such as the security of the data stores and a changing governmental regulatory scheme. However, the evolving technological landscape ensures that these areas will be addressed. Billions of dollars are being spent, with large swaths of the healthcare industry being transformed in order to address these concerns and make mHealth more accessible than ever. While the challenges that continue to face mHealth are real, they are not intractable. Now, more than ever, healthcare organizations should invest their time and money in mHealth. It is an investment that will reap rewards in terms of better patient outcomes, more efficient expenditures and hours upon hours of saved time.