Got Mobile? 4 Imperatives for Healthcare Systems and Doctors

hospitalContributions by Product Consultant, Andrew Shih

The healthcare industry has been in the spotlight in recent years for many reasons. In an effort to help increase the number of insured individuals, the government enacted the Affordable Care Act. The Association of American Medical Colleges says that there will be a shortage of 90,000 in the next five years. According to the Center for Disease Control, one-third of Americans are obese and the estimated annual cost of obesity is $147B (in 2008 dollars). These are just a few indications that the healthcare industry is in trouble and that solutions are needed. Mobile technology can play a major role in these solutions.

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Many hospital systems view technology as one of the main differentiators between competitors and a way to build lasting relationships with patients. The good news is that the use of mobile technology is already on the rise. 66% of doctors use tablet devices for medical purposes, up from 45% in 2012. 70% of physicians use their smartphones to research medications at least once a week.

4 Imperatives for Healthcare Systems and Hospitals:

  • Decrease the cost of care.  Healthcare systems want to remove inefficiencies and cut healthcare utilization.  For example, $17B in annual costs are associated with preventable readmissions.

  • Increase the quality of care. As doctors become more scarce and the need for healthcare increases, doctors and hospitals will struggle to maintain quality.

  • Increase the effectiveness of care. A doctor’s time is becoming more limited as the number of patients increase. Patients are given prescriptions but compliance varies.

  • Empower patients more. Patients want to know the best doctors and what the best, most informed solution is. Patients also want more information to better care for themselves to save a trip to the doctor.

There are myriad ways to improve the whole healthcare system with regards to patient/doctor interaction before a visit, during a visit, and after a visit.

Before a visit to the doctor/hospital:

Often, deciding whether to go to the doctor or not isn’t a clear decision. Websites like Webmd.com try to facilitate the decision-making process by asking questions about symptoms. Nurse hotlines through your insurance also provide a valid medium for getting information. However, patients needs more information to alleviate nervousness surrounding lack of knowledge. When visiting a doctor, the information that the doctor receives is simply the past historical medical records on file and also anything the patient says upon arrival. Using mobile technology can help in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. Integrating health and fitness apps (over 100,000 apps in the market) from wearable tracking devices (think Jawbone, FitBit, pedometers, etc.) with health history and records would greatly increase the knowledge doctors so desperately need to diagnose accurately. 

During a visit:

Mobile technology could also play an important role in the hospital visit itself – as it stands now, seeing a doctor is an unpleasant, cumbersome process that’s inefficient for both sides. Key to this is mobile’s ability to empower the user. By simply delivering relevant information to both caregiver and care-receiver when they need it instead of relying on old mechanisms, hospitals can save precious time and resources. A nurse or administrator might have to spend less time answering worried questions if patients and families had easy access to a list of frequently asked questions or concerns, to use a very simple example.

Currently, of the 59% of hospitals with a mobile technology plan, most cite pharmacy management and information (PHI and non-PHI) lookup as the most common patient care categories in which mobile can make a contribution. This is a good start; one doesn’t need to stretch very far to think how an immediate impact could be made in either field. A more ambitious vision, however, could easily encapsulate every facet and stage of a patient-caregiver interaction – from something as simple helping a patient find their way in a hospital, to something as advanced as a comprehensively integrated patient health profile – that pulls from not just hospital data, but others, such as fitness tracker data – that’s immediately accessible and interactive for caregivers. Whatever the specific solution, the eventual effect of a well-implemented mobile approach is simple: more empowered and satisfied patients, more productive caregivers, and more effective hospital visits.

After a visit:

In a trial, remote video conferencing between nurses and recently discharged patients had a 97% success rate in preventing readmissions. As mentioned earlier, readmissions is a large contributor to the costs of healthcare systems. Additionally, improvements in medication compliance is greatly needed. In fact, one of the biggest factors in readmissions is in medication noncompliance. Mobile technology can help with prescription refill reminders to patients, displaying information about their prescription, and even sending data back to pharmacy or doctor whether patient has complied with the prescription.

These are just a few examples of how mobile technology is currently being used and how this industry is evolving. Some folks might say that mobile technology won’t help in healthcare because of HIPPA laws and lack of smartphone adoption. However, 77% of US Seniors own a cell phone and smartphone ownership increased 55% among seniors in the past year. According to Nielsen, 65% of all adults in the US own a smartphone. Not only is adoption ripe for mobile technology to improve healthcare systems and hospitals, but companies like Ginger.io have partnered with dozens of hospital administrations and pharmaceutical companies to do Big Data analytics for better health, among other things. This is really just the beginning as we think about IoT, video conferencing, health tracking, and improved data.