Mobile health technology, commonly referred to as mHealth, is the medical industry’s quickly developing response to the growth of technology in everyday processes. Mobile health technology has the ability to radically transform how healthcare works, making it streamlined and more efficient, as well as improving the dynamic of the relationship between the patient and the doctor.
Mobile health, as the name suggests, focuses on implementing healthcare capabilities through mobile devices, such as through mobile applications, with the goal of making health care more accessible and convenient. The growing number of mobile devices worldwide, as well as their proliferation throughout our society, means that this is a vital market for medicine to expand into. However, as technology continues to progress and change rapidly, our definition of what mHealth actually is will transform as well. We have only scratched the surface of how mobile health technology can redefine how we approach healthcare.
Benefits of mHealth
The capabilities of mHealth have already demonstrated many advantages for both patients and physicians, including transmitting information, connecting providers with patients, reducing patient load, and even promoting health initiatives for the greater good.
First and foremost, the advent of mobile health technology has transformed how we store and access patient records. Though servers and applications must maintain security as the highest priority, the ability to quickly and easily access tons of automatically updated and comprehensive information for patients is an amazing feat. This feature is equally advantageous to both physicians and patients, as physicians can use technology to store information through electronic health records (EHRs) and patients can access it via patient portals. Also, the public at large can even use popular mobile health applications such as Fitbit to access their own health information.
Connecting and Communicating
The ultimate goal of any new technology or practice in the medical industry is to not only streamline processes but to cultivate the doctor-patient relationship. The importance of quality communication between providers and patients cannot be overstated. The ability of mHealth to do just this should not be overlooked. Patients can text or email their doctors through patient portals, and doctors can even have access to real-time patient monitoring. Furthermore, the rapid growth of the telehealth and online health sector has surged in recent years. The trend of “online doctors” who can be accessed remotely via online medical platforms is indicative of how our society is normalizing using technology for medicine. The ability to connect with your doctor or a doctor through a platform like this has amazing potentials for revolutionizing care.
mHealth also allows doctors to be able to communicate with other healthcare providers, such as doctors and nurses, regarding important information. Care teams of doctors across disciplines can be in direct contact to better care for patients, streamlining the sharing of information and vital data.
Reducing Patient Load
Oftentimes, patients will find the information that they need on patient portals or through telemedicine and will not need to go to the doctor. That means that mobile health technology will reduce the number of patients who visit doctors’ offices, leading to reduced patient load, less stress, and even better work-life balance for physicians in the long-term.
Promoting the Greater Good
Mobile health technology also has an amazing potential to help underdeveloped nations. When 33% of the developing world has access to mobile devices, mHealth has the possibility of changing the game. The capabilities of mHealth allow governments to extend their reach into rural, impoverished, or underdeveloped communities where they previously were unable to have or maintain communication with. This means that, on a broader scale, mHealth has the potential to help millions of people worldwide have greater access to care.
Challenges of mHealth
Among the most difficult challenges in the implementation of and dependence on mHealth are the problems with HIPAA and interoperability.
The legal and ethical question of maintaining and securing patient privacy in a technological world has and will continue to be a valid and worrying concern. The legal restrictions by the HIPAA Act, in particular, means that the widespread adoption of mHealth technologies that adequately conform to these requirements may take many years.
Another challenge with mobile health technology is the ability to access information about patients who have visited different doctors, private practices, or hospitals. The desire for many firms to maintain their own records over cross-sharing and integration of information across firms means that sometimes vital information is left out of records, hurting both the patient’s ability to get the best quality of care and the medical provider’s ability to provide it. The difficulties surrounding interoperability will continue to plague the medical industry pending a happy medium.
Mobile Health Technology: The Path to the Future
Keep in mind that in the United States, nearly 60% of hospitals have optimized their patient portals for mobile access, and nearly 50% are looking to expand into health technology in the future. A recent survey indicated that 90% of doctors are using mobile devices to engage patients in care, and 30% believe that mobile-optimized patient portals are the most effective capability in engaging patients yet.
It is vital for medical practitioners to add digital elements to their practices. The practical uses of mobile technology that are advantageous for both consumers and doctors should not be overlooked.
All photos from Shuterstock
Guest Author Bio
Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.