NOTE: Written by guest columnist, Marcus Gordon, Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Atlanta Medical Center
If 2011 was the year of the mHealth “Revolution” then 2012 will become known as the year of the mHealth “Evolution” – that is, the actual deployment of mobile (and wireless) devices on a mass scale to track, monitor, and influence health decisions. The tipping point has arrived. . .
Evolution can be defined as “a motion incomplete in itself, but combining with coordinated motions to produce a single action, as in a machine.” The confluence of players and participants in the game – physicians, patients, providers, payers, technology companies, device companies, etc. – have all come together for a singular purpose – to make it easier and more effective for a patient to take control of their own health. The ubiquity of mobile devices in a healthcare setting has fostered the rapid development of a wide variety of initiatives aimed at allowing patients to track their health. According to a recently released “Deloitte Open Mobile Survey 2012”, healthcare and life sciences emerged as the industry with the most potential for new mobile growth and value generation. Coincidentally, a February 2012 Pew Research Report found that 46% of all American adults own a smartphone, an 11% increase from May 2011.
From tele-home patient monitoring, to activity tracking, to prescription reminders, the ability of smartphones to enhance the physicians, providers, and payer’s ability to deliver across the continuum of care is prevalent. Many of the major insurers, including UnitedHealth and Aetna, for example, are incorporating “mHealth” as a big part of their strategy of connecting patients with valuable data. Aetna recently partnered with iTriage, an App based Symptom-to-Provider™ pathway, that helps patients make informed decisions, as well as receive opt-in based SMS text prescription alerts. UnitedHealth developed “DocGPS”, available in the iTunes store, which helps its plan members “locate the nearest doctor, clinic or hospital within a specified radius using your iPhone’s GPS.”
In Georgia, many providers are using mobile technology to connect directly with patients. Many hospital systems throughout the state have “mobile optimized” websites, which are pared down versions of a desktop website and are organized to be viewed on a smaller screen, such as a smartphone and tablet. In addition, Atlanta Medical Center, South Fulton Medical Center, and North Fulton Hospital have Apps available for Apple and Droid devices that enable consumers to search for physicians as well as store pertinent medical information, in case of an emergency.
Even physicians are adopting mobile devices at a very high rate. A study from Manhattan Research last year found that almost 72 percent of physicians now own a smartphone. And by the end of 2012, physician smartphone adoption is expected to reach 81%t to 85% as a result of device improvements, increased data speeds and decreased costs. In addition, there are thousands of Apps available for physicians to use on mobile devices at the point of care – either for patient education and/or self-knowledge.
A convergence of events is helping to drive the mHealth “machine” forward. Providers and payers are deploying mobile channels to engage current and new patients; physicians are using mobile platforms to facilitate bedside care; and consumers are using smartphones to help them manage a healthier lifestyle. While the healthcare ecosystem is going through a major transformation, even at the Supreme Court level, we can be assured that mobile technology – in a plethora of ways – will play a critical role moving forward.