According to data from Pew Research, smartphones are owned by over 81% of Americans. The global smartphone penetration rate, reaching 44.9% in 2020, translates to approximately 3.2 billion people worldwide using smartphones. It’s no surprise that mobile technology has been disrupting various industries, including healthcare. Mobile technology encompasses more than just smartphones in healthcare; it includes telemedicine, cloud-based electronic health records (EHRs), biometric sensors, wearables, and much more.
How Cell Devices are Transforming Healthcare
The use of cell devices in healthcare can make a life-or-death difference. Cell technology and healthcare are now closely intertwined. Here are a few examples illustrating how mobile medical technology is transforming healthcare.
Healthcare Mobile Technologies – Access to Specialists
Specialists are rarely present in emergency rooms. They are usually only contacted when patients present symptoms or injuries requiring specialized care. Unfortunately, the time it takes for a specialist to reach the emergency room can result in loss of life. However, mobile technologies now enable attending physicians to access specialists and receive real-time advice on the necessary interventions to save patients’ lives.
Healthcare Mobile Technologies – Medical History
Cell technologies in healthcare, such as mobile health apps and digital health records, allow emergency room physicians to access all the necessary information about a patient. This is particularly helpful when patients are unconscious or have injuries that hinder effective communication.
Healthcare Mobile Technologies – Bridge Geographic Barriers
Mobile technologies in healthcare are bridging geographic boundaries, connecting patients with specialists who are hundreds of miles away. Rural cancer patients can consult oncologists remotely, diabetes patients can monitor their blood glucose levels without visiting a clinic, and weight loss patients can share their daily meal and exercise logs, and vitals with physicians without physical check-ups.
For centuries, visiting a doctor’s office or receiving a house call was the only way to receive medical treatment. Today, services like HealthTap and Doctor on Demand allow patients to consult physicians remotely. Reliable medical content websites also provide disease and symptom information.
Healthcare Mobile Technologies – Preventive Action and Proactive Self-Management
Mobile technologies in healthcare empower individuals to proactively manage their health and well-being. Through mobile apps and wearable devices, people can now collect, review, and analyze their medical data. With this information, they can take preventive actions to ensure their continued good health. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly two-thirds of deaths in the US are caused by potentially preventable conditions such as heart disease, cancer, cerebrovascular diseases, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and unintentional injuries. Mobile health applications and wearables give people a fighting chance and improve overall mortality rates.
Previously, the only way to check on patients after they left a hospital or clinic was to call them and inquire about their well-being. This was an inefficient and unreliable method of collecting health data. With mobile health apps and wearables, physicians now receive vital and actionable data. Physicians also receive alerts when there are significant issues requiring their attention.
In addition, patients often struggle to retain information and advice from healthcare providers. According to a study, anywhere from 0% to 80% of medical information provided by healthcare professionals is immediately forgotten. Mobile apps and other health portals enable patients to securely communicate with doctors, seek reminders, clarifications, and report medication side effects from the comfort of their homes.
The improvement in the patient’s ecosystem, where all parties involved in a patient’s health have real-time access to data and can collaborate for the best outcomes, is remarkable. The possibilities of smartphone use in healthcare are truly endless.
Why Mobile Technologies in Healthcare are Transformative
But why are mobile technologies in healthcare so transformative? Why is healthcare mobile technology leading to such profound changes in healthcare delivery? We offer some insights below.
Consumer interests and demands have been pivotal in accessing all types of information, including health information, at their fingertips. According to a recent Accenture Digital Health Survey, younger generations are dissatisfied with many aspects of traditional healthcare and increasingly seek health services that meet their expectations for convenience, efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency. Mobile technologies in healthcare fulfill these needs and drive transformation.
As the healthcare system evolves, employers are seeking cost-effective ways to limit spending on health plans while ensuring the health and productivity of their employees. This need has led to a focus on value-based healthcare, where healthcare providers’ remuneration is based on patients’ health outcomes and service quality. Value-based care contracts typically share the risk between insurance companies and healthcare providers.
Mobile technologies in healthcare help providers improve outcomes and, in the process, earn profits and qualify for incentives. This concept has already been proven, with many examples of providers using healthcare mobile technology to enhance health outcomes in value-based care models.
Value-based care models leveraging mobile technologies are expected to help the US improve its healthcare outcomes. Despite spending the most on healthcare among developed countries, the US has the worst health outcomes. Six out of ten Americans suffer from at least one chronic condition, while four out of ten suffer from multiple conditions.
The savings from value-based care models driven by mobile technologies come from:
- Better application of evidence-based decision-making, resulting in tailored treatment plans
- Early discovery and proactive management of risk factors
- Improved patient engagement and better management of chronic conditions
- Fewer redundant or duplicated examinations and procedures
- Enhanced care coordination, reduced complications, and fewer hospital stays
- Informed referrals and optimal service provision locations, such as using walk-in clinics and remote care sites instead of emergency rooms when appropriate
- Increased prescription of cost-effective generic medications
- Standardization in healthcare and the use of Centers of Excellence to replicate successes
Focus on Social Determinants of Health
The conditions in which people live, which influence their health status, are known as social determinants of health. These conditions include socioeconomic status, healthcare access, transportation, community, physical environment, education, and social support networks. Effectively addressing social determinants of health is essential to improving health and reducing long-standing healthcare inequalities.
Increased government focus on these issues worldwide has emphasized the role of mobile technologies in improving certain conditions. For example, telemedicine has improved healthcare access, and technologies from other industries like the online taxi industry have facilitated transportation to healthcare facilities.
Examples and Benefits of Mobile Devices in Healthcare
Let’s explore some examples of mobile devices in healthcare.
A wide range of wearable biometric sensors is available on the market. These include wrist bands, bracelets, headbands, skin patches, and clothing that discreetly monitor and log physical functions. The health metrics captured are either wirelessly transmitted to a cloud server or uploaded when connected to a computer. Current technology can measure over a dozen biometric parameters.
Lab on a Chip
Besides biometric sensors, the computing power of smartphones allows various lab tests to be performed with the device in the palm of one’s hand. For instance, smartphones are now used for detection and control in the field of microfluidics, which involves controlling and manipulating fluids within constrained spaces such as picoliters. Breath, sweat, tears, blood, urine, and saliva can all be “digitized” and tested for pathogens or diseases using a special smartphone equipped with biosensors and microprocessors.
The ever-improving quality of smartphone camera lenses and screen resolution has opened up new medical possibilities. Examples include:
- Eye exams: Refractive errors can be examined by looking through a lens attached to a smartphone.
- Ear infections: Ear problems can be examined using a smartphone with an attached otoscope.
- Cervical cancer: Optical properties of cancerous cervical tissue can be analyzed using a smartphone.
- Teledermatology: Smartphones are used to compare skin images with databases of cancerous skin lesions for skin cancer diagnosis.
Challenges to the Adoption of Mobile Technologies in Healthcare
Despite the potential for mobile technologies in healthcare to revolutionize the industry, several challenges hinder their widespread adoption.
The current US healthcare model, which emphasizes fee-for-service, conflicts with the potential of mobile technologies in healthcare. A value-based healthcare model could save billions in hospital visits. For example, replacing all hypertension cases with remote monitoring using smartphones would save the system billions of dollars and offer greater convenience for patients. However, there is little incentive for healthcare providers to implement such a system.
Handheld devices in healthcare are expensive. While the cost of smartphones with health sensors is decreasing, it is still too high for many people. The same applies to wearables and other mobile health devices. As mentioned earlier, around 20% of Americans still do not own a smartphone, and approximately 4.5 billion people worldwide cannot afford one.
Privacy and Security Concerns
To fully realize the promise of mobile technologies in healthcare, patients, caregivers, and service providers must have confidence in the security of mobile health systems. No one wants their private health metrics or their patients’ metrics to fall into the wrong hands. The mhealth regulatory framework lags behind technological advancements, and regulators must implement measures to protect user data.
Another critical challenge in implementing mobile technologies in healthcare is ensuring the usability of data for users and providers. The sheer volume of data collected by mobile and digital health applications can overwhelm users and systems. Analytics tools must be designed to present only actionable intelligence to end-users. Additionally, providing patients with more health metrics does not guarantee positive outcomes. Sometimes, it can lead to unforeseen negative consequences. For example, a randomized controlled trial evaluating the impact of self-monitoring blood glucose levels on glycemic control and psychological scores in patients with recently diagnosed type 2 diabetes mellitus found that self-monitoring was correlated with higher scores on a depression subscale. The more patients discovered high blood glucose levels, the more depressed they became.
Mobile technologies in healthcare empower patients with ownership and accessibility to their health metrics. These technologies place patients at the center of the healthcare ecosystem. Beyond convenience, mobile technologies in healthcare will define the new normal in the healthcare industry.
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