The mHealth revolution was predicted to explode with a bang, and reshape how we view healthcare. However, we haven’t seen that happen yet. Several obstacles; from security concerns, to lack of physician adoption, to the barriers of potential regulation, appear to have hindered the proliferation of mHealth apps… Or have they?
While it’s true that the wearable health monitors and mobile EHRs many pegged as the biggest game changers haven’t yet had a true impact, many hospitals are still creating mobile tools and using them to improve patient care. Three types of mHealth apps, in particular, are having a significant impact on healthcare and, regardless of obstacles, spurring patient engagement.
1. Patient Education
When people get sick, they want answers fast. What’s wrong with them and how do they fix it? In 2012 alone, 75 million people used their smartphones to access health information. Several hospitals have recognized this opportunity, creating mobile resources for patients to find valuable health information from a more trusted source. Take UCLA Health, for instance. One of the top 5 health systems in the nation, according to US News and World Report, they created the UCLA Health app for their patients. The app, among many features, allows users to research symptoms, conditions and treatments for many health issues and enables these users to schedule an appointment if needed. And UCLA isn’t the only one. 4 of those Top 5 facilities that have created apps that deliver an educational mobile resource for their patients; evidence as to why they continue to be among the nation’s healthcare elite.
2. Hospital Wayfinding
In the labyrinth of hallways and corridors in today’s hospitals, mobile wayfinding is a popular growing trend. While these facilities continue to spend thousands on fancy signage and informational kiosks, many forward-thinking providers are turning to mobile apps as an effective and cost-saving alternative. A very recent development in mHealth, the Mayo Clinic was one of the first hospitals to implement mobile wayfinding, in 2012, incorporating turn-by-turn directions, and interior mapping into their apps. Many hospitals are quickly following suit, as GPS and proximity beacon technology have continued to enable easier hospital navigation for both patients and visitors.
3. Home Health Tracking
One of the primary obstacles holding back the general physician from prescribing mHealth apps is trustworthiness. The patient is, literally, trusting the doctor with their lives, so how can they prescribe something they don’t know? Rather than trusting a third-party app, some hospitals have started making their own. This trend hasn’t been restricted to the wealthy, elite providers either. Iowa’s community-based Henry County Health Center delivered such a tool to their patients, in their multiple award-winning HCHC Healthy Living app. Allowing users to monitor everything from medications and appointments to weight and diet, the app provides a trusted resource for HCHC physicians to prescribe and empower patients to improve overall healthcare outcomes and reduce readmissions.
The Future Types of mHealth Apps and Technology
These are just three of the areas, where there is already significant impact on the healthcare industry. Sure, the fancy wearables and secure EHR and communication apps have yet to be fully realized, but mHealth is still thriving. That such obstacles are overshadowing the amazing things which these hospitals are already doing with mobile, speaks to just how revolutionary mHealth has the potential to be. Regardless of the issues, this is truly an exciting time for the healthcare industry, and an extremely crucial one for providers who do not want to be left behind.
The MobileSmith app development platform has enabled several hospitals to deliver these resources and the number of innovative use cases for these apps are growing by the day. The mHealth world isn’t stuck, it is flourishing, and once it solves a few more of these issues, the future of mobile healthcare will continue to be bright.