Mobile health care has been in practice for years, but it’s only now being thrust to the front of medicine as patients make clear they expect the same level of convenience from health care providers as grocery stores and restaurants provide. At Text2MD in Chicago, IL, we understand the current health care model no longer works. That’s why we’re committed to delivering the care you need when and how you need it – without in-office visits.
What Is Mobile Health Care?
Also known as mHealth, this quickly growing field is a way to deliver health care support and intervention through such mobile technologies as wearables, tablets, and smartphones. Although mHealth can transmit data to nearly any mobile device, the most popularly used right now are mobile phones. The majority of Americans, over 95%, now own a cellphone, and most use smartphones – 81%.
mHealth refers to a range of healthcare interventions provided as both clinical and non-clinical tools. To illustrate, numerous smartphone apps can be downloaded to help users reach fitness goals, monitor sleep, and count calories. Other modalities, like holding doctor appointments via phone or Skype, support traditional healthcare delivery.
A More Flexible Approach to Care
Still other tools provide real-time data to your healthcare providers, like blood pressure monitors that link to your phone and automatically transmit readings. The benefit at all levels is the provision of interactive, personalized, and adaptive health care that coordinates with patients’ everyday lives. Providers are thus able to overcome barriers like time and resource constraints that, up until now, have hindered their relationships with patients.
Mobile health care is ramping up to play a crucial role in medicine for one reason: it allows patients to take greater control of their own health. They can use digital tools to monitor data and receive faster responses from providers. The importance of this cannot be overstated at a time when a shortage of healthcare workers continues to grow.
Fighting Back Against Health Care Shortages
A labor market analysis found the U.S. will need to hire 2.3 million more providers by 2025 to meet the needs of aging baby boomers. Rural areas are facing even more critical shortages as smaller hospitals close or merge with those located in large cities. Meanwhile, people in rural settings are more likely to have low incomes, be of advancing age, and suffer chronic illnesses.
For these people, and many others, mHealth allows providers to conduct virtual visits and provide early-stage interventions. This can be part of the worldwide solution in providing care to populations – such as those in developing countries – who otherwise lack access to necessary services. Data from the World Economic Forum shows that almost 6 million people in developing countries die every year because they cannot get the care they need.
Why Is mHealth Important?
Mobile devices and technology allow doctors to:
- Increase access to patient information
- More effectively communicate with patients
- Lower failure-to-respond rates
- Enhance productivity
These factors have given way to a range of outcomes, including greater medication and treatment compliance among patients. One of the most significant hurdles professionals face is controlling the way patients take their medications once they’ve returned home. In short, patients are not guaranteed to follow a physician’s guidelines.
Greater Patient Accountability
For patients with critical or chronic health conditions, following a proven medication regimen not only improves their health but can also lower care costs by reducing hospital readmissions. How does mHealth help in this regard? By sending reminders to patients about when and how to take their medications.
This information is then transmitted back to providers who can see medications have been correctly taken. Digital messages can also be used for post-surgery monitoring, especially because paper instructions can be lengthy and hard to follow. Electronic interactions simplify directives and allow patients to quickly and easily message a practice when they have questions.
Better Access to Information
Until the digital age crossed paths with traditional health care, patients lacked the ability to easily access their medical records. Online portals and mobile applications allow that accessibility, granting patients greater insight into their own health and allowing coordinated care between teams of providers. In other words, important information can now be shared with those who need it.
Improved Patient Outcomes
Imagine you don’t feel well and want to schedule an appointment with your doctor. You’re told the soonest you can get in is one month. On top of this, a study from Harvard indicates the average wait time once you’re in the office is two hours.
Now imagine not feeling well and scheduling a same-day virtual appointment with your doctor. This leads to faster diagnostics and improved clinical decision-making; your doctor can easily order tests if he or she feels you need them. The sum of these actions leads to better patient outcomes in receiving care and intervention much more quickly than traditional office visits allow.
Significant Improvements in Morbidity
Mobile health care can also improve morbidity outcomes in certain scenarios. To illustrate, an app designed to monitor patient-reported symptoms of disease recurrence in previously treated lung cancer cases improved average survival rates from 14.8 months to 23 months. The World Health Organization (WHO) agrees digital diagnostic platforms can be valuable when clinical advice is more immediately needed.
Positive Behavioral Changes
Digital platforms can also improve patient behaviors. For instance, devices that monitor activity levels and heart rate usually display additional data like social comparisons. When patients physically see how they fare against other community members, they’re more likely to make positive lifestyle changes that can reduce BMI and stabilize blood sugar levels. They’re even more likely to follow a physician’s guidelines.
Examples of Mobile Health Solutions
One of the most common mHealth solutions is an online or remote consultation. These aren’t intended to replace in-person appointments, but rather to supplement them. This saves patients from having to drive to a doctor’s office every time they feel unwell. Skype is one way patients and physicians can connect; other third-party apps can also be used, in addition to video conferencing software and digital tools specific to a provider.
Electronic Health Records
You know mobile health care allows easier access to patient records, but the benefit of this is greater than meets the eye. These records can identify the best course of treatment for an individual patient and indicate possible health risks among similar groups. In turn, providers can recommend preventive measures for whole populations to reduce the risk of disease spread.
Earlier, we noted downloadable apps can be used to monitor your fitness progress and identify sleep patterns. But medical apps can also be used to measure insulin levels, body temperature, and heart rate. This data can then be sent to your provider for real-time analysis. In turn, he or she can make immediate recommendations that may include medication changes or in-person visits. Common mobile health apps include those for:
- Chronic illness to document long-term symptoms
- Weight loss to monitor progress
- Pregnancy to track the baby’s growth
- Diabetes to record blood sugar levels
Text messaging is considered a crucial component of the larger strategy behind mobile health. Yes, these messages can be used to remind patients when and how to take their medications, but texts are also ways to let patients know when lab results are available and prescriptions are ready for pick-up. Texting is additionally valuable for providing general health tips, appropriate responses to health emergencies, and mental health support.
Also known as e-Prescribing, health care providers can enter prescription information into a digital device and securely transmit that information to a pharmacy of your choosing. You’ve likely already experienced this during office visits, but it can be used in mobile health as well. The benefits include:
- Improved patient safety by reducing medication errors
- Potential drug interactions can be easily checked
- Prescription refills can also be requested electronically
Advantages for Patients
Mobile health care allows patients and providers to maintain regular contact with each other. This is especially beneficial for elderly patients who need more support for chronic conditions, as well as patients who cannot easily leave their homes. Additional benefits include:
- Real-time symptom tracking for rapid feedback
- Personalized treatment programs for each patient
- Reduced human error in patient record-keeping
- Less spread of disease by reducing in-office contact between patients
Pointing this out may seem redundant, but the convenience of mobile health is worth mentioning because it completely changes the way people perceive healthcare. Most see it as an obstacle; some patients forego the care they need because they don’t want to lose an entire day of work for a mere appointment, while others must wait so long to see their doctors they simply “live” with whatever ailment they’re experiencing.
Mobile health relieves the anxiety of scheduling and waiting for appointments. Patients can instead conduct a video conference or telephone call from the comfort of their homes, where they feel safe. This convenience encourages people with illness or disease to seek the care they need.
Increased Medication Accuracy
Many patients can’t recall the name and dosage of one prescription medication, much less several. This can be dangerous for the elderly and other high-risk patients. When clinicians don’t know which medications a patient is taking, an opportunity is created for drug-to-drug interactions. Mobile health eliminates this danger by storing patient data digitally.
It no longer makes sense that in a world as advanced and capable as ours, health care continues to be inadequately distributed across the United States. Mobile health is helping to close this gap by lowering the cost of care and offering more preventive measures. Many people – because they live in remote areas or can’t afford a traditional office visit – have to seek care that treats rather than prevents disease.
mHealth helps address this by putting crucial information in patients’ hands. Apps and mobile visits increase reaction time, and as patients gain knowledge about their bodies by seeing their health data for themselves, they are likely to more diligently care for themselves. Self-care – including healthy eating and exercise – is one of the first steps to preventing disease.
The Health Care You Need
While you may still need future in-office appointments, mobile health solutions can address your current concerns in a much faster way. Digital platforms allow us to “meet” with you in a safe, convenient, and virtual manner. You don’t need to get in a car and drive or expose yourself to additional transmittable illnesses by waiting with other patients. Instead, you can stay home and get the care you need. Start today by calling Text2MD.