The days of siloed medical practices, information, and patient records are nearing an inevitable end as today’s healthcare consumers demand more than ever from their patient experience. Trends have emerged over the past decade that allow us to see the direction in which healthcare is headed—and mobility is the key. Providers who don’t embrace mobile healthcare technology are destined to be left behind.
The Changing Facets of Healthcare Delivery
Healthcare delivery is changing in more ways than one—from the return of house calls to mHealth apps, wearable technology, and AI that allow us to monitor patients many miles away. Retail clinics are popping up in chain stores all over the country, making it simple for people to see a healthcare provider while picking up a gallon of milk.
It’s easy to see the way healthcare delivery is changing, but why is it changing in the first place?
The answer lies in the consumerization of healthcare.
Benefits and Challenges of Mobile Healthcare Technology
Providers benefit, too. Using a mobile EHR system, they have the patient’s entire medical history at their fingertips, allowing them to see the medications the patient is currently taking and any allergies they may have, making it simple to prescribe the correct medicine for the specific condition.
Engagement between providers and patients is also a big plus in mobile healthcare technology. The use of patient portals—which allow healthcare consumers to schedule appointments, check lab results, email providers, or receive targeted information on their specific conditions—makes it easier for patients to take control of their own healthcare.
“With mobile, you have a persistent presence,” says Grey Healthcare Group managing partner and chief engagement officer Erin Byrne, in an mHealthIntelligence interview. “You’re not only able to see what patients are experiencing, you have the flexibility of information delivery....”
Mobile healthcare technology also increases the ability to collect not just data, but “big data.” While it sounds like a corporate buzzword, it’s absolutely necessary to the future of mobile medicine.
Consider this: A single medical research study can require more than 100 terabytes of storage space. Most non-mobile healthcare organizations don’t have the capacity to store that kind of data, but mobile organizations with cloud-based storage can store that and more.
However, it comes at quite a price.
According to Healthcare IT News, it’s estimated that the healthcare industry as a whole will spend nearly $9.5 billion on cloud services by 2020. The reason? The undeniable benefits of big data.
The price point seems high, but in the right hands, this data can help reduce costs, avoid unnecessary mortality, reduce waste, improve efficiency, and even inspire new treatments and pharmaceutical options.
Big data can also bring other crucial KPIs to light, such as effectiveness of treatment, safety and timeliness of care, patient-reported wellness, preventative measures, hospital admissions/readmissions, and more.
“Security breaches in general are growing exponentially in the healthcare industry [...],” says Adam Mahmud, healthcare alliance manager for MDM platform developer Jamf in an mHealthIntelligence interview. “Hospitals and clinics need a robust and secure MDM [mobile device management] offering to support their mobility initiatives aimed at increasing caregiver efficiencies and improving the patient experience.”
In 2017, the security of more than 5.5 million medical records were compromised, which has decreased from years prior. Still, it’s a fact that has led some healthcare consumers to eschew the mobile technology that could otherwise be beneficial to them.
A potential solution to these security concerns is an increased reliance on secure cloud-based technology. Keeping the data off of devices leaves just one environment to protect.
mHealth Apps Lead the Way in the Mobile Healthcare Field
The mHealth market was valued at nearly $11.5 billion in 2014 and is expected to rise to $102 billion by 2020. That growth explosion should speak for itself: mHealth apps are the current reality, and they’re only going up from here.
There are plenty of mHealth apps already on the market. One unique challenge, though, is regulations. The healthcare industry has compliance requirements beyond security to consider, including things like HIPAA compliance, quality, and safety. This is a new problem, as mHealth apps never existed until recently. In order to catch up with the times, guidelines must be developed and are in progress.
As of 2017, there were 325,000 mHealth apps available. These apps are easily downloaded onto laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc. Some are paid, others are free, and they’re available to patients and providers.
Providers Need to Get On Board with Home Healthcare
The numbers don’t lie. Home healthcare can cut costs—in Medicare, as much as $4,000 per person, provided patients follow through with their care plan after being discharged from the hospital.
Patients who utilize a home healthcare provider also experience shorter hospital stays than those who don’t, since the care team (both in and out of the hospital) work together to determine the level of support the patient will need once they return to their own domicile. This prevents people who are technically well enough to return home (with a bit of help) from being stuck in a hospital bed because the help they need isn’t readily available.
Readmission rates are also significantly reduced. With more than 75% of hospital readmissions being deemed “preventable,” home healthcare providers help mitigate readmission risks by employing remote sensors, wearable technology, home visits, and more.
The Future of mHealth Technology and Healthcare
Although we’re already entrenched in the future, the question remains: what comes next? It’s anyone’s guess, but the trends suggest that AI, mHealth, IoT (Internet of Things), and home healthcare are going to be key players.
Artificial intelligence is only going to get “smarter.” Chatbots are now available to answer medical questions and even automatically book appointments when necessary. AI technology is even set to take over low-level tasks, allowing healthcare providers to focus on the things that really matter.