The Future of Healthcare & Mobile Healthcare Technology

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 embrace mobile healthcare technology as part of their digital transformation strategy are better equipped to improve employee productivity and patient satisfaction.

Healthcare Delivery is Changing Fast

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 more convenient for patients to see their healthcare providers 

It’s easy to see that  healthcare delivery is changing rapidly, but why is it changing in the first place?

The answer lies in the consumerization of healthcare.

In the past, healthcare organizations focused on efficiency, compliance, and cost reduction. While those factors are certainly still essential, there’s another component that needs to be considered: the living, breathing person who chooses to use (or not use) a healthcare service.

The consumerization of healthcare requires organizations to put the patient—now known as the consumer—first. This means focusing on convenience, service, easy access to care, and a host of other things that provide the total “customer experience.” Fail at even one point, and the consumer will take his or her business elsewhere.

All too often, so much goes into predicting the “future” of healthcare that many providers fail to see the present. Mobile technology and consumerization have forced healthcare forward, whether organizations are ready for the change or not.

What Is Mobile Healthcare Technology?

Mobile healthcare (mHealth) technology is the use of mobile devices, such as mobile phones and patient monitoring devices, in medicine. In short, mobile healthcare technology encompasses everything from healthcare apps to electronic healthcare records (EHRs) to home healthcare.

As far as technology is concerned, change is the only constant—and healthcare technology is no exception. With more than 7 billion mobile phones in the world, and more than 70% of those in low- or middle- income countries, healthcare organizations can treat patients in parts of the world they previously couldn’t access.

Today, we have mHealth apps that can monitor a patient’s vital signs remotely, AI technology that can diagnose asthma just by “listening” to a patient breathe, and interoperable software that can instantly send and receive real-time information across multiple providers and platforms. Existing technology is currently enabling service during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the results are shaping how patients will be serviced moving forward. 

The future of healthcare is already here.

Benefits and Challenges of Mobile Healthcare Technology

From the onset, mobile healthcare technology has revolutionized the medical field in many ways, for both patients and providers. As with most things, the benefits don’t come without their hurdles.

Benefits of mHealth Technology

Patients now have more convenience and an active role in their own healthcare. For example, a midnight run to the emergency department with a screaming toddler who suffers an acute ear infection can now be handled from home with a telemedicine visit. Another scenario might include remote monitoring for cardiac rehabilitation patients, which has proven to reduce readmissions by 40%

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, which makes it easier to prescribe the correct medicine for the specific condition.

Engagement between providers and patients is also a big benefit of 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, collecting and leveraging key data 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.

It’s estimated that the healthcare industry as a whole will spend nearly $64.7 billion on cloud services by 2025. 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 productivity 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.

Challenges of mHealth Technology

For all the benefits of mobile healthcare technology, there are challenges, as well—security concerns being chief among them.

“Security breaches in general are growing exponentially in the healthcare industry […],” says Adam Mahmud, healthcare alliance manager for MDM platform developer 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 the first half of 2020, 3.8 million individual healthcare records were compromised, a number 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 benefit 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 $316.8 billion by 2027. That growth explosion should speak for itself: mHealth apps are the current reality, and their popularity is only increasing 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 are a relatively new innovation. In order to catch up with the times, guidelines must be developed.

There are currently more than  325,000 mHealth apps available. These apps are easily downloaded onto laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other devices. Some are paid, others are free, and they’re available to both patients and providers.

Most mobile health apps fall into one or more of these categories:

  • Clinical or diagnostic apps, whichgather, evaluate, and share data
  • Remote monitoring apps, which send vital signs, blood pressure readings, or oxygen levels directly to a provider
  • Clinical reference apps, which offer reference materials such as digital access to coding
  • Productivity apps, which give clinicians access to remote dictation, internal communication, scheduling, and more.
  • Healthy living apps, which track weight loss, diet, exercise, hydration, and beyond

Mobile technology has made it easier than ever to bring the care to the patient, rather than bring the patient to the care. Whether it’s physically seeing the patient in their own environment or employing telemedicine, the technology now exists to meet healthcare consumers wherever it’s convenient for them. 

See how COVID-19 has transformed the healthcare industry and changed mHealth technologies into an essential part of a successful strategy.

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Leveling the Playing Field: Home Healthcare

For the mobile healthcare provider, offering convenient consumer services has never been easier. The technology (almost) handles itself, scheduling is pain-free, and it’s simple to achieve peak efficiency.

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, with fewer subsequent hospital readmissions.

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’re discharged. 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 otherwise readily available.

Readmission rates are also significantly reduced. With more than 75% of hospital readmissions deemed “preventable,” home healthcare providers help mitigate readmission risks by employing remote sensors, wearable technology, home visits, and more.

Concerned about the changing electronic visit verification (EVV) requirements? Modern home healthcare technology can help you set up an EVV system that works for you.

Home healthcare isn’t all sunshine and roses, though. As of 2017, 10,000 baby boomers were retiring each day. That doesn’t just put pressure on the home healthcare front to care for these aging people; it also takes valuable home healthcare providers out of the workforce.

Add in increased mandates to reduce Medicare/Medicaid spending and the fact that mHealth technology is increasing so quickly that many organizations can’t keep up, and unprepared providers have a problem on their hands.

The solution? Prepare now!

One significant step is to offer home healthcare with a new twist. Don’t require the patient to call in and wait for the healthcare provider to arrive sometime in a 4-hour window; instead, invest in a healthcare solution that gives patients precise appointment times and real-time updates along the way.

The Future of Healthcare is Now!

It’s easy for mobile healthcare organizations to look to the future, but the future is actually here. Healthcare organizations that will thrive in the future are those taking action now.

Mobile healthcare isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s only becoming more prevalent as time goes on. COVID-19 created a pressing need to treat patients in new, creative ways, and as a result, many patients interacted with telemedicine and mHealth apps for the first time in 2020. As we move forward, the consumerization of healthcare, the advancement of mHealth technology, and the efficiency quotient can’t be ignored. 

Today’s healthcare looks different than it did in the years, decades, and even centuries past. The intelligent mobile healthcare organizations of tomorrow are adapting to the changing times today, and their patients—and the organizations themselves—are reaping considerable benefits along the way.

Looking Ahead:  Managing Your Mobile Workforce

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 in the digital transformation of healthcare.

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.

Healthcare technology like EVV and AI-assisted telemedicine will continue to replace traditional medical practices. Plus, some traditional practices like house calls are being revitalized through market demand and the new power of mHealth technology.

For home healthcare to succeed as predicted, however, certain procedures must be put into place, specifically mobile workforce management and coordination of care. By managing the mobile workforce efficiently, healthcare organizations can increase patient and provider satisfaction, reduce patient costs, and turn complex variables into simple healthcare schedules

In fact, healthcare agencies that adopt mobile workforce management solutions have increased the number of patients seen per day by more than 33%.

Everything (and everyone) needs to move seamlessly from one place to the next, no matter where the patient is located, to meet the demands of this complex industry. AI, mHealth, IoT, and home healthcare promise to offer just that.

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