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Development of mobile technology ahead of useful mHealth applications

Mobile technology has cleared the way for mHealth applications to be used during care, but mHealth apps aren't quite ready to hit the big time.

Many experts agree that current mobile technology can support a much higher level of mHealth adoption than what healthcare is experiencing today. Mobile devices aren't lacking for computing capabilities -- the market is simply short on meaningful mHealth apps. This begs the questions: What products have the full potential to drive more usage of mHealth applications by patients and healthcare professionals? What value can stakeholders in the marketplace derive from it?

Within the healthcare arena, several stakeholders provide services and interact with patients. These groups, to name a few, include public and private entities such as payers, disease registries, providers, healthcare facilities, research organizations and employers. During a patient encounter, opportunities may arise for physicians to use mHealth to facilitate and enhance the care experience. When considering all the possible use cases for mobile technology, it's clear that healthcare has only scratched the surface of what mobility has to offer.

Patient engagement with health plan providers: From a payer's perspective, mHealth can become a tool that patients with complex chronic diseases use to manage their conditions and improve their outcomes. Applications that support patient groups that would benefit the most from mobile assistance would likely see a positive return on both long-term cost savings and improved care outcomes.

Employer initiatives: In order to keep healthcare costs down, some employers create company-wide wellness programs for their staff. The in-office clinics of some large corporate groups offer free visits to local physicians for routine checkups and minor illnesses. Other employers have opted to encourage an active and healthy lifestyle by incentivizing employees to participate in corporate sports, or friendly weight-loss competitions. Whatever initiative is being pushed, mHealth applications can provide a platform in which employees can seek health advice and track their progress. This not only will provide valuable data on the participation levels of employees, but will also be a way to reward those who have successfully transitioned to a healthier lifestyle. These changes will help some companies reduce their healthcare costs and employ a healthier workforce.

Hospital engagement: Some hospitals are enhancing their relationship with patients by offering their care at multiple locations within a community. But for some hospitals like Kaiser Permanente, it's clear that patients are responding to initiatives being rolled out for mobile devices. By providing this access, many patients are relying more and more on the tools being offered to them on their smartphones, including lab results, refill requests, appointment scheduling and other educational material.

Clinical research: In traditional settings, some clinical research organizations relied heavily on paper forms to solicit feedback from patients about their care experiences. Now, these organizations can significantly reduce their costs by capturing data in real-time from patients' mobile devices. This also eliminates the need to manage complex paper-based workflows and avoids the cost associated with storing and scanning those documents. There are applications that track patient responses and remind patients to report their feedback.

Mobile health offers an incredible opportunity for many stakeholders to help patients with their care. While some organizations might not see the immediate return on the investment for some of the available apps, there are a number of initiatives that have proven that mHealth does in fact help improve population health, reduce costs and, in some cases, increase revenue.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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