All health care stakeholders -- from patients to providers to payers -- recognize the potential of mobile health technology to transform health care delivery. The recognition of mobile technology's power to improve clinical and financial outcomes is driving innovation in health applications.
Nine new reports, studies and surveys capture that effort, the progress being made, the challenges to be overcome and the benefits to be achieved in mobile health technology.
Executives See the Future of Health Care and the Future is Mobile
The importance of technology generally and mobile health technology specifically to the health care delivery system of the future was captured in a new survey of 178 C-suite health care executives by the IBM Institute for Business Value. Asked to rank five factors having a game-changing impact on health care, technology was No. 1, cited by 70 percent of the health care executives. Regulatory concerns were second at 68 percent. Of the specific technologies available to health care organizations, the executives ranked the Internet of Things, which allows medical devices to “talk” to one another without human intervention, and mobile health solutions, as the No. 1 and No. 2 “key technologies for enabling digital health.” They were cited by 66 percent and 65 percent of the executives, respectively.
IBM said, “In an era of disruptive innovation and intensifying competition, coming late to market with marginally superior offerings isn't good enough. Any health care organization that wants to thrive must dominate the market before its rivals do and demonstrate that it's the best.”
Siding with that challenging future for providers and payers that don't embrace mobile health technology as a method of engaging patients and improving their care is a report from Adobe Digital Insights. Adobe's report is based on a comprehensive analysis of data from patient visits to leading health plan, health information and provider websites and applications and a survey of 1,000 consumers.
For example, 25 percent of patients who characterized themselves as digitally savvy said the quality of health care services improved over the past five years compared with 11 percent of patients who said they were digitally challenged. Further, the analysis said mobile traffic to provider and health plan sites and applications is 24 percent lower than desktop traffic with many patients and enrollees unaware of whether their provider or health plan even offers a mobile application.
“Health insurers and providers who do not innovate and lever digital channels risk losing share to competitors and risk passing up opportunities to provide a better health care experience for the digitally engaged patient,” the analysis predicted.
The Value of Mobile Health Technology to Patients
Health care executives also recognize the importance of mobile health technology to patients. Asked to rank the technologies expected to have the biggest impact on patient experience and care coordination, 71 percent of 170 quality-improvement experts surveyed by the American Society for Quality cited “wearable sensors, remote patient monitoring and other caregiver collaboration tools” as No. 1.
“Smart phones, tablets and applications providing a wealth of information for physicians and other clinicians” and “online communications along every step of patient process” tied for second, each cited by 69 percent of the surveyed experts.
The ASQ members polled by the group also rated mobile health technologies high as modalities that control costs. Some 69 percent of the respondents cited “remote patient monitoring” that reduces the need for physician office visits and improves patient compliance with treatment plans as the No. 1 tech having the greatest impact on controlling operational expenses. “Patient engagement platforms” were second, cited by 68 percent of the respondents.
Patients, too, recognize the value of mobile health technology and have indicated their willingness to make it a regular feature of their health care experience, according to several tech vendor reports.
- A survey of more than 1,400 patients by CareCloud found that 73 percent said they want to use online and digital health tools to access their medical records, 73 percent said they want to use them to order prescription refills and 61 percent said they want to use them to pay their health care bills.
- A survey of 761 adults by Xerox found that 63 percent said they want to be more connected via technology to their pharmacist, provider and health plan.
Hospitals Build Online Relationships with Patients
Providers appear to be making progress in using mobile health technologies to engage patients in their own care despite some of the hurdles identified in the research.
Of particular interest, a recent report from the American Hospital Association noted the following gains by hospitals to connect digitally with their patients:
- 74% of hospitals allowed patients to pay bills online in 2015, up from 56% in 2013
- 63% of hospitals allowed patients to send them secure messages in 2015, up from 55% in 2014
- 45% of hospitals allowed patients to schedule appointments online in 2015, up from 31% in 2013
- 44% of hospitals allowed patients to fill prescriptions online in 2015, up from 30% in 2013
Projections Predict Substantial Growth in Mobile Health Technology Market
Three new reports each project dramatic growth in the mobile health tech market, regardless of what technologies and services were included in the defined markets.
The global wearable medical device market will reach $10 billion by 2023, according to a report from Transparency Market Research. That's a nearly four-fold jump from $2.7 billion in 2014, the firm said. The report attributed the growth to two factors. First, an aging population will create a larger pool of consumers who want to monitor their health status. Second, rising chronic disease rates will create a larger pool of people who want wearable devices to help them manage their illnesses. The report said the devices that will experience the fastest growth will be different types of heart monitors.
Separately, a report from Grand View Research said the global market for patient monitoring devices will reach $1.7 billion by 2024. Grand View said drivers of this segment of the mobile health tech market will be increasing rates of cardiovascular diseases, a rising geriatric patient base and the growing preference by patients to receive care at home.
Further, the broader global mobile health solutions market, which includes wearable medical devices, patient monitoring devices and mobile health services, will tally $59.2 billion by 2020, according to a projection from research firm MarketsandMarkets. The report cited the “increasing penetration of smart phones, tablets and other mobile platforms” and the expectation by patients to use them for their health care needs as a leading factor behind the market boom.
In summary, the nine reports, studies and surveys collectively document the commitment and effort by an entire industry to transform and improve the health care experience for all stakeholders through the use of mobile health technology. They recognize the clinical and financial benefits of meeting and exceeding patients' expectations to use mobile devices to manage their interactions with the health care industry. It's clearly no longer a question of if but of when.
To learn more on this topic, read “Major Shift Coming in the Use of Mobile Health Technologies.”