Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Future of mHealth

by Mary Heekin          

          This Wednesday, November 11th marks the final day of the 2015 mHealth Summit.  This annual conference explores the latest innovations in mobile, connected and telehealth, as well as their impact on healthcare delivery, patient engagement and clinical outcomes.  The growing role of technology in healthcare management and delivery and the diversity of platforms currently employed for health promotion are revolutionizing the healthcare industry.  Within the last two decades, these technologies have moved beyond electronic medical records to include tools such as smartphones, mobile applications, video calling and fitness trackers.  Individuals utilize “a variety of mobile tools including: app-enabled patient portals, telehealth services and text communications” (2015 HIMMS Mobile Technology Survey). These innovations are giving care providers a more optimistic outlook on the future of public health by integrating health more fully into patients’ everyday lives.

            Mobile health technologies offer many advantages in increasing patient knowledge and access to personal health data, individualizing care and encouraging patient engagement.  As a result of the availability of more tangible health indicators, such as blood glucose levels, daily steps and blood pressure measurements, individuals are provided with some of the necessary information to assist them in making informed health decisions.  Patients are empowered to engage in consistent self-management, and studies reveal that people who use mobile health technology are more inclined to follow physicians’ advice and be proactive in their care (Health Information and Management Systems Society, 2015).  In an NIH-sponsored study conducted on the uses and benefits of mobile devices and applications for health care professionals (HCP), many care providers responded positively to the advantages of health technology.  HCPs associate mobile health with greater efficiency when accessing patient data, accuracy in documentation, improved productivity with an average increase in electronic prescriptions and enhanced clinical decision-making. Check out article here.

               Despite widespread support for the use of technology in improving patient outcomes, long-term benefits from mobile health remain in question.  There is no significant data which might reveal the effect of mhealth on societal burdens, like chronic disease, due largely to the recent application of health information systems.  Will those patients who currently use mobile health technology continue to do so in 5 years, or will these applications face a fate similar to that of many fitness trackers like FitBit: user apathy.  In the midst of these uncertainties, continuous technological advancements are one constant.  Responding to the growing emphasis on outpatient care, mobile, connected and telehealth may be the future of healthcare. 

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