There's no denying the growth of mobile health, which is the top trend that will reshape health care in 2013. However, the question remains: What will the impact be on physicians and their medical practices?
There’s no denying the growth of mobile health or its impact. According to a forecast by Information Week Healthcare, mobile health is number one of the top five trends that will reshape health care in 2013.
That should come as no surprise. Two-thirds (66%) of IT teams in health care organizations said that doctors were using iPads or tablets for medical purposes, up from 45% a year earlier, according to the Information Week Healthcare’s 2012 Priorities Survey.
Stein Soelberg, director of marketing for KORE Telematics, a leading provider of machine-to-machine network services, says the reason why is clear.
“The technology has improved,” he says. “You’re getting smaller devices that have better battery life, that are much more reasonably priced. Anyone who knows the law of supply and demand can see you’re going to get mass adoption.”
However, the question remains: what will the impact be on physicians and their medical practices?
There are several favorable trends occurring on the caregiver side, as well as the insurance and regulatory side, Soelberg says. For example, aim has been taken on wringing costs out of the system while still providing excellent quality of care.
Soelberg explains that one of the biggest reasons patients have to come in for appointments and physically meet face to face with a caregiver is they’ve been prescribed a medication and they’re not taking it as they should be. But now there are now pill bottles that have cellular-enabled or wireless-enabled caps that, if not removed according to the regimen, are going to report not only to the physician but possibly also to a family member that the patient hasn’t taken his or her medication. That will prompt an outbound call or a way to help make sure that patient becomes compliant with that medication, and avoid missing several days that will trigger them having to come into the office.
“Anything we can do to lessen the strain on the system, meaning scaling so that more patients can get higher quality care with fewer office visits, is going to make the insurance companies happy, it’s going to make the doctors more efficient, it’s going to make everybody’s lives that much better,” Soelberg says.
The two health care segments where Soelberg expects to see the most prominent growth with regard to mobile health are cardiac monitoring and diabetes monitoring, or glucose management — the latter is especially true where elderly patients or young children are concerned.
“You take the guesswork out of the equation,” he explains. “The machines are doing the work and making sure the device is operational, first of all, to make certain the patient’s blood sugar levels are where they should be — and if proactive measures need to be taken, that they’re taken quickly. For parents of children, it allows those children to resume a much closer semblance of a normal life. Those are two areas where I expect to see a lot of proliferation of these health devices.”
Being in position
George MacGinnis, telehealth expert at PA Consulting Group, a leading management and IT consulting and technology firm, says there are three ways that mobile health technologies will impact positively on physicians’ practices.
The first is that technology can help maximize revenue from current operations, improving inward referrals and helping to improve clinical throughput. Second, it can also help to manage key business risks, such as maintaining patient loyalty by offering an improved experience for ordering repeat prescriptions or more timely response to test results.
“Lastly, as clinical practice becomes more complex, mobile access to health records and clinical guidelines will become as indispensible a part of the doctor’s bag as the stethoscope has been over the last 100 years,” MacGinnis explains.
Soelberg agrees, adding that physicians also need to understand the benefits and features of mobile health tools. For example, a cardiac remote monitoring product for somebody who is in an extremely rural area where connectivity may be diminished or non-existent, won’t work in that context.
“Physicians need to educate themselves on where the technology can be best used, and who are the most appropriate targets for those applications,” Soelberg says.
The learning curve, however, should not be steep.
“I think the providers of these technologies are very sophisticated, and they’ve put together pretty usable applications for monitoring and warning,” Soelberg says. “And anybody who can own or operate an iPhone is going to be capable of learning this.”