“Improving Healthcare Services Through Information Technology: Why should clinics and care providers invest in mHealth development?”

Advances in mobile technology and the widespread use of smartphones and tablets are working to improve healthcare services at a rapid pace. These advances are increasing the success rate of patient outcomes, as well as the overall quality of care provided.

Mobile health, known as mHealth, is a growing IT sector that is working to transform how healthcare providers and centers are interacting with their patients. According to the 2013-2017 Mobile Health Market report, 80% of physicians use smartphones and medical apps as healthcare tools and innovative platforms for doctor/patient interaction. This market is estimated to grow to $26 billion globally by 2017. (Sourсe)

Tech advancements expand mHealth as a sector

IT in the field of healthcare has been transformed by three modern technologies, mobility, the cloud, and big data, which have enabled easier communication across various channels. Industry experts at Businesswire predict that 70% of healthcare organizations will invest in healthcare mobile app development, wearables, remote monitoring tools, and virtual care by 2018. They also estimate that 65% of transactions will be made on mobile by 2018 and 80% of healthcare data will travel through the cloud by 2020.

As a leader in innovative technology, the United States passed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act in 2009 to promote the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology. The HITECH Act also established numerous grants aimed at training personnel in healthcare organisations, teaching them how to make use of advances and provide support for health IT infrastructure.

Capabilities of mHealth

mHealth helps address human health problems with support from mobile devices. Through the expansion of healthcare information technology, physicians and other care providers are able to:

  • reduce medical errors and improve patient safety;
  • make effective use of data available through electronic health records;
  • enable patients with chronic diseases to better manage their health in order to prevent complications;
  • track patients’ health status remotely and provide treatment based on current medical conditions by means of real time data collection;
  • integrate an application with medical devices that are responsible for tracking and reporting critical patient information;
  • get alarms in case abnormal vital signs are detected, which can be viewed by the provider in real time through the platform, EHR, tablet, etc;
  • track patient health behaviors through apps over long periods of time;
  • view, track, and update patient records, pharmacy records, test results, X-rays, and even vital signs in a virtual chart that can also be checked against other databases;
  • provide new patient engagement tools;
  • seek information on-the-go;
  • communicate with nurses and other staff from smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices.

Developing a healthcare mobile app

A successful example of how mHealth solutions can be used is evident in Philadelphia-based Hahnemann Hospital. The hospital conducted a pilot study introducing a healthcare mobile app that sent email and text messages to over 350 congestive heart failure patients. During this study, patients received email and text message reminders to get them to schedule follow-up appointments after being discharged from the hospital.

As a result, the hospital was able to reduce its 30-day readmissions by 10% - a 40% improvement over their baseline. Readmissions also decreased to 16% for patients who received messages, and the readmissions rate for those who confirmed an appointment was 8.8%, compared to 15.4% for those who didn’t confirm. At the end of the 10-month pilot, it was clearly demonstrated that, not only could mobile apps help patients to keep their appointments to get the proper follow-up care, but it also could contribute to reduced hospital costs.

As mHealth continues developing to help address healthcare needs in meaningful ways, mobile health startups dedicated to its growth have begun to emerge. These companies aim to transform healthcare services by increasing efficiency and accessibility for both providers and patients. (Source)

mHealth Startups

There are many health-focused startups and projects currently operating in the global market. Some examples of these are:

Constant Therapy, an app that offers device-based personalized neurological therapy for the treatment of neurological disorders such as strokes and dementia. Created by Boston University researchers, the app has delivered more than 27 million exercises to patients. Care providers can have patients do exercises during visits or patients can complete them at home on their own.

Hyderabad-based eKincare, founded in 2014 by Kiran Kalakuntla and Sunil Motaparti, helps users encrypt their health records and keep them stored in the cloud, allowing them to access their dashboard from anywhere using a PC or mobile device. eKincare gathers medical results from various healthcare providers, updates profiles, and provides a single repository for users to store all their medical records.

Qventus, a software platform that helps hospitals detect inefficiencies in how they manage resources. The platform uses machine learning to understand and make predictions about a hospital's operations. This gives doctors and hospital management staff valuable, real-time data about when to expect increased demand in a specific department, where bottlenecks are forming in patient flows, and when to schedule surgeries for optimal cost savings.

CareDox, a platform that allows parents and school nurses to collaborate and share necessary information about a child's health. This allows parents to keep a record of their child's health information, which can then easily and securely be shared with new nurses, administrators, coaches, and teachers whenever the child begins a new school year. These are just a few of the many companies participating in this growing ecosystem. The early signs show that this sector will only continue to expand as more and more people make mobile an important part of their daily lives.

Predictions for mHealth market value

The graphic below shows the predicted forecast for global mHealth market value from 2012 to 2020.

global mHealth market

(Source: Statista)

In 2017, it is estimated that more than 3.4 billion people will have smartphones or tablets with access to mobile health apps. Around 50 percent of this population is estimated to have downloaded and used health apps already.

Raising funds to promote mHealth

Incorporating healthcare mobile apps trends as part of modern healthcare is a critical step in revitalising the ecosystem. mHealth provides many benefits that will help the industry achieve higher quality, and more efficient healthcare services. As the demand for mHealth solutions grows among physicians and patients, so does the need for funding. MobiHealthNews has tracked notable investments made in creating healthcare mobile apps for patients during the first quarter of 2017. These include:

  • Geneva Health Solutions, which raised $1.9 million. Based in Pasadena, California, the company makes a remote monitoring platform for cardiology practitioners.

  • Pops! Diabetes Care, which raised a little over $1.2 million to bring its product to market. This Minnesota-based company is working on a digital device and diabetes management platform.

  • iExhale, which raised $1.86 million. This Los Angeles-based online mental health company makes an iOS app that allows people to instant message with licensed therapists, share how they are feeling anonymously, and offer support to others on the iExhale social network.

  • Tilak Healthcare, which raised $2.7 million. This French startup develops video games intended to diagnose chronic diseases.

These companies, along with many other funded digital interventions, are working to improve patient outcomes and make healthcare more patient-centered and accessible.

Why healthcare providers need to invest in mHealth solutions

The intersection of medicine and information technology is inevitable as more healthcare providers and patients go mobile. Steady growth is expected in the global mHealth solutions market.

mHealth works to redesign healthcare, providing healthcare practitioners and organisations with the opportunity to deliver high quality care based on evidence and real-time data. Undoubtedly, mHealth is a niche for further funding that is estimated to develop and grow at a rapid pace as more hospitals and care providers become willing to perform their duties safely and effectively with the help of health information technology.

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