Digital tools that facilitate innovative methods and modalities to improve health care, enable lifestyle change, and create efficiencies are progressing quickly. And as patients (a patient is also a consumer, so the term can be used interchangeably) continue to adopt digital interactions, healthcare organizations are rapidly leveraging these technologies to improve care and the patient experience. However, many organizations want to implement meaningful improvements but struggle to prioritize which initiatives to pursue first.
In this article, we will discuss Mobile Health (mHealth) and Telehealth solutions and recent progressions. These two digital health technologies are destined to force comprehensive change in the way healthcare services are delivered and consumed in the US. These technologies require a clear workflow design to ensure everyone within the organization understands their role in maximizing the value of healthcare delivery. Failure to do so can lead to staff frustration and lower adherence to new procedures, decreasing the value of care and ultimately worsening outcomes. Understand, however, that clinical success can take time to measure.
The digital health industry is exhibiting signs of maturity as it moves from a field of aspiring early-stage start-ups to more stable companies with validated products. Consumers are also accepting and adopting digital health technologies.
We found that current and future physicians are not only open to new technologies but are actively seeking training in subjects such as data science to enhance care for their patients. – Lloyd Minor, MD, Dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine
The above quote originates from the 2020 Stanford Medicine Health Trends Report, which identified one principal idea: physicians expect technology to remodel patient care in the near term while actively preparing to integrate health data and the technologies that bind it into the clinical environment. As mentioned in the foreword of the 2020 Health Trends Report, the healthcare sector is ‘undergoing seismic shifts, fueled by a maturing digital health market, new health laws that accelerate data sharing, and regulatory traction for artificial intelligence in medicine.’
mHealth, also known as mobile health, refers to the use of mobile devices to provide healthcare-related services and solutions. mHealth spans applications, both wearable and non-wearable smart devices, aggregations platforms, and analytics. In other words, it is a component of Connected Health in the sense that it is creating opportunities to improve the patient journey.
The global mHealth apps market size is projected to reach $57.57 billion by 2026.
Healthcare organizations are investing in mHealth technology development to improve the quality of services and promote self-management behaviors in patients. mHealth technologies are potentially powerful platforms for the delivery of behavior change interventions because they can improve engagement with established strategies for the prevention and treatment of disease through personalized goal setting, individualized dosing reminders, and gamification.
Despite the current limitations of diagnostic mHealth apps, there is tremendous potential and evidence is starting to emerge to show clinically significant improvements in morbidity and mortality outcomes in particular scenarios. And while obstacles to mHealth adoption remain, in the end, mHealth technologies are a specific way to utilize mobile technology to achieve improved health goals.
Telemedicine, also interchanged with telehealth, is the natural evolution of healthcare in the digital world. And while telehealth may not always involve clinical care, there are undeniable benefits to the role telehealth has within the healthcare ecosystem.
Telehealth is gaining popularity in the market because it enables care teams to manage and monitor the health of their patients with chronic ailments. Telehealth platforms may also mitigate some of the strain from healthcare staffing shortages by connecting patients to remote providers and retaining patients in-network. From 2014 to 2018, patients between 31 and 40 years old were most associated with telehealth overall, accounting for 21% of all telehealth claim lines.
Primary care consumers expect healthcare providers to deliver a more modern and digital experience in 2020. – Tom Ronay, MD, Medical Director at Circle Medical
For more information on telehealth, an AMA-led telehealth study published in The New England Journal of Medicine explores policy trends and fundamental priorities in telehealth adoption, specifically on how physicians use telehealth and the advantages to patients.
Digital Health is the Future
Healthcare in America is on the outset of great transformation, prompted by disruptive new technologies, regulatory demand and increasingly assertive, value-sensitive consumers. Reimbursement is a key determinant in the application of clinical interventions. By restraining insurers from denying or restricting coverage for health care services due to the delivery of care through digital tools, more patients will have the ability to receive covered telehealth services.
Important lessons for digital health technology integration can be learned from the implementation of electronic health records (EHRs), especially the influence of usability design and clinician training to improve productivity, quality, and safety. Clinicians require that digital tools work seamlessly together and are supported by data streams that are integrated into electronic records. As the American Telemedicine Association published in the New England Journal of Medicine, wireless monitoring, mobile health applications, social media, and smartphone video capabilities, among others, offer innovative opportunities to extend care relationships well beyond the traditional in-patient visit.
Health systems are under tremendous pressure today to provide ever-more convenient access to care for patients while tightly managing operational costs. – Pascal Zuta, CEO and co-founder of GYANT