Every day the technology of our mobile devices continues to improve, and every day there are new applications for it. The healthcare industry is poised to take advantage of this technology by providing access and mobility to its customers around the world.
This particular market called the mobile health market, or mHealth, has yet to reach its full potential. Currently, doctors and patients can interact through texts, email, and apps, as well as through sharing pictures and video. But this is just the beginning. Mobile devices have given us opportunities for real-time communication and collaboration, which is a boon for the medical industry. Also, there are increasing opportunities for improving access to quality care through mobile access (as soon as the powers that be approve these mobile accessibility apps). In the meantime, healthcare organizers are looking for short term solutions.
With over 140 million smartphone users in the U.S. – and another 60 million projected users in the next five years – mobile marketers are looking to take advantage of the need for mHealth technology improvement and engagement.
So far, customer desire for mHealth technology has had a slow takeoff. Only about 10% of the U.S. population has ever used these technologies. In addition, there are many obstacles for mHealth to grow: the traditional channels of medicine include solutions for banking, insurance, and travel, whereas mHealth must find new solutions to these hurdles.
On the other hand, several new technologies have managed to appeal to the public. Digital hospital rooms, virtual medicine kiosks, and mobile e-health devices are providing physicians with crucial information on their patients, aiding them in the process of diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment. Remote monitoring of clients has proven to be very useful to both the medical industry and patients, as well. Also, mobile devices have access to Electronic Health Records and patient information from remote locations, offering call scheduling, training and education, as well as communication for appointments and reminders. Finally, as wearable technologies are beginning to catch on, new mHealth technologies may be incorporated into them, allowing the user and their doctor(s) to track their progress and recovery.
The lack of engagement in mHealth comes from the lack of standardization in these new technologies. There are currently too many types of mobile platforms to have a standard mobile app, and several of these competing apps provide many of the same functions for the consumer. Also, the legal ramifications of using the technology are dictated by HIPPA, so there must be new laws in place to ensure compliance. By developing real-time apps where patients and physicians can share information concurrently, consumers will more-than-likely see the value in adopting these new technologies.
In years to come, we will begin to see healthcare consumers embracing mHealth for the future of their own healthcare. They will likely expect more of their healthcare provider (since consumers are experiencing higher out-of-pocket payments for medical services). The key will be to provide high-quality, low-cost health care by eliminating as many middlemen as possible, thereby restoring the doctor-patient relationship. With mHealth, a consumer will have more access to medical professionals and, in turn, medical professionals will be more responsive to their patient’s needs. There will be a welcome competition in the medical industry in the future according to these factors, and the incorporation of mHealth technologies can give individual businesses an edge over their fellow medical practices.