Mobile Technology in Healthcare: Trends and Benefits

The global mobile health market is projected to reach $189 billion by 2025, according to data aggregate site Statista. Mobile tech played a key role in providing care during the pandemic, and the ever-increasing prevalence of smartphones, tablets, and other devices ensures it will continue to be important. Because of this, healthcare professionals should take action to effectively incorporate mobile tech into their care strategies.

To learn more, check out the infographic below, created by Maryville University’s online Master of Health Administration program.

How mobile technology in healthcare has impacted patient care.

What Is Mobile Health?

Mobile health uses tech devices to monitor health, gather health-related data, and provide remote care. This allows nurse leaders, physicians, and patients to build and maintain health and wellness strategies outside a clinical setting.

Elements of Mobile Health

Smartphones are one of the most prominent devices associated with mobile health. This is partially due to their ubiquitous nature, as 85% of Americans own a smartphone. This percentage increases as the demographics get younger: 95% of adults ages 30 to 49 and 96% of adults ages 18 to 29 own a smartphone.

Another component to mobile health is wearable tech. Fitness trackers such as Fitbit and smartwatches such as the Apple Watch are popular devices in this category, as 21% of American adults wear them. They’re particularly popular among younger demographics: 28% of adults ages 18-34 use the devices, compared to 10% of adults age 55 and older. Furthermore, wearable tech isn’t strictly related to fitness trackers; biomedical systems that monitor blood pressure, track vital signs, monitor diabetes, and detect heart attacks fall into the category.

Tablets can also be part of a mobile health strategy, as 52% of American adults own at least one tablet. The number of tablets in the country is more than 200 million.

Purpose of Mobile Health

Mobile health’s purpose depends on the group. For patients, its use tends to revolve around proactive health concepts such as nutrition and wellness, telehealth, chronic disease and medication management, symptom checks, and access to medical help lines.

Healthcare professionals view mobile health as a way to improve care efficiency. They do this through health record maintenance, patient monitoring, information management, time management, reference, medical education, communication, and clinical decision-making.

As technology evolves, so does mobile health’s definition. Mobile’s bright future can benefit patients and healthcare leaders alike.

The Future of Mobile Health: Examples of Influencing Factors

The advent of cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) has revolutionized mobile health. Innovations such as electronic health records (EHRs), data automation, and data storage have made tracking and cataloging massive amounts of data more efficient.

Another big component that continues to influence mobile health is the use of big data and artificial intelligence (AI) methods and applications. High-level elements — the open-source machine learning library Apache Mahout, AI-based platforms such as Skytree and Big ML, and machine learning algorithms, to name a few — not only have contributed to gathering data from a wide swath of sources but also have helped in ensuring the data is useful and accurately targeted.

Naturally, social media continues to play a key role in mobile health’s future. These popular platforms can advance the concept in myriad ways, including raising awareness of new and emerging health concerns, fighting misinformation, expanding the reach of current resources, answering common questions, monitoring public health, and engaging patients.

Healthcare leaders must be aware of a few challenges as they turn to a mobile health environment. HIPAA compliance remains a potential hurdle, as privacy laws may insufficiently cover tech-driven medical apps, leading to increased data vulnerability. Cybersecurity is another source of concern, as healthcare data breaches cost an average of $9.23 million per incident. Concerns about system implementation and integration also linger.

Mobile Health During a Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic demonstrated the importance of mobile health in modern healthcare. This may be particularly noteworthy when it comes to telehealth. Providers saw a 154% increase in telehealth visits in the final week of March 2020 compared with the final week of March 2019. In fact, 30.1% of all doctor visits were conducted via telehealth between January and June 2020, and, 53% of these visits were related to depression.

Smartphone technology also proved to be crucial during the pandemic, through concepts such as contact tracing, symptom monitoring, and information provision. Ultimately, these elements, particularly telehealth, helped to increase patient access to specialists, helped patients avoid hospitalizations, and improved patient outcomes.

How Does Mobile Health Benefit Healthcare?

The benefits of having a mobile health strategy far outweigh the potential challenges. In one way or another, these benefits point to a healthcare professional’s ultimate goal: to help improve patient outcomes.

Mobile health benefits patients and healthcare providers differently. Patient benefits include improved communication between patient and provider, fewer hospital visits, reduced patient costs, and improved access. Healthcare provider benefits include improved patient satisfaction, decreased hospital costs, added sources of revenue, and reduced risk of infections and illness through telehealth visits.

Examples of Healthcare Clinics with Successfully Integrated Mobile Health Tech Programs

In 2007, the Mayo Clinic implemented Telestroke, a telemedicine program devoted to treating stroke patients. The program, which began as a clinical trial on the clinic’s Arizona campus, has expanded to include doctors on its Florida and Minnesota campuses. Today, doctors from these campuses treat more than 1,500 patients annually at 27 remote hospital sites across five states.

Another example of integrated mobile health tech success is the Charleston Area Medical Center. The organization implemented a mobile health platform to reduce readmission among chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure (CHF) patients. After implementation, the center experienced a 22% drop in COPD readmissions. The center also experienced a 30% decrease in CHF readmissions.

The Future of Healthcare Is Now

Mobile technology is making great strides in improving healthcare today, and its future in the field is bright. Whether technology works to keep patients aware of their daily health or helps healthcare professionals stay organized as they inform the public, it’s helping to make patient care delivery better than ever.

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