Looking for New Approaches
The standard three pillars of mHealth—EHR-integrated health data generation, appointment scheduling, and e-prescription are no longer enough to attract users; technology consultants from Itransition agree. More advanced tools are required. What can they be? Scientists and technology experts have come up with a range of solutions, which significantly vary in scope and implementation specifics. Let’s consider some of them.
Deploying a Hub
Some mHealth improvement projects are rather ambitious. The University of Memphis (Tenn.) opted for delivering a multi-functional hub for managing several chronic conditions. The platform unites mHealth and telehealth, and also employs precision medicine and AI to deliver personalized treatments with minimal side effects to each user. The e-resource tackles cardiovascular diseases, mental health, social anxiety disorders, and more.
However impressive the results, the cost of such a project may be too big even for a large clinic. Luckily, changes can be done on a smaller scale to engage patients successfully.
With the ongoing shift from prescriptive to preventive care, the situation has started to change. Nowadays, new technologies enter the healthcare realm, and so do new approaches. It’s possible to onboard patients offering a feature they’ve asked for—for example, an educational module for chronic patients—to start with. Later on, you can expand the offer, broadening the focus to reach other patient groups. For instance, you may offer some healthy lifestyle tips for general wellbeing for all patients.
However, it’s not the only available option. You can also try to meet other needs your patients might have. Seeking to improve their mHealth adoption rate, Healthfirst expanded the platform with a block describing diverse community services and resources (organizations, food stores, and more) located in the chosen vicinity. Given the complex epidemiological situation, such a tool may come in handy. It can help reduce the time people spend walking around in search of necessary services or products.
With the gradual transition to value-based services in healthcare, a one-size-fits-all approach ceases to be effective. This applies to digital offerings, too. Though mobile apps may seem the most reasonable way to propel patient engagement in terms of the cost-effort balance, they aren’t universally accepted with ease. In fact, different generations may prefer different digital solutions to engage with their health providers. So why not offer a combined set of mobile health tools to extend the audience coverage? Let’s consider the possible combos.
Over 76 percent of telehealth users are going to keep on using the technology, McKinsey reports. With this in mind, you can enrich your mobile health app with the telehealth functionality. This is likely to boost the adoption, as patients won’t need to go to a virtual consultation exclusively from home but do so from any location they see fit and secure.
While telemedicine has mostly settled in, there are still populations in need of care who don’t rush to onboard it. For instance, for patients living in remote locations, the high-speed internet needed for teleconferencing may pose a challenge. Others simply lack tech skills and the motivation to learn them. So is there some combination of solutions for such individuals?
You may try combining a smartphone app with a wearable to power remote monitoring. Wearables don’t require a high-speed internet connection like teleconferencing solutions. They don’t need particular skills either. In most cases, wearable apps start with one tap. With such a solution, a patient can start the wearable app and follow their routines without any hindrances. The only thing to remember is timely battery charging. If the tool goes dead when collecting data, the latter may be lost at least in part.
There are some of these solutions on the market already. In 2019, researchers from the Queensland University of Technology (Brisbane, Australia) studied reputable apps available on Google Play and the App Store and concluded the majority of them rely on built-in smartphone sensors like cameras, touch screens, and microphones. As for the conditions they may help with, they include respiratory, dermatological, neurological diseases, and anxiety disorders.
It’s Not Only About a Smartphone
Mobile health is not only about mobile solutions for smartphones. In fact, it’s a fairly broad category encompassing a plethora of tools including full-scale wearable devices. These may also make a good choice for powering patient engagement.
The devices have not only built-in sensors but also some emergency functionality. It activates when the monitored index hits too high or too low values, for example. Even if not all patients can appreciate this feature immediately, it’s possible to start offering a monitoring device to chronic condition patients explicitly. As they use the tool and engage in their health management every day, they may inform other patients about the pros of the mHealth approach. In return, other patients may get more interested in managing their health using mobile solutions.
With remote patient monitoring tools, it’s critical to focus on their performance and data security. Enhancing these effectively requires comprehensive quality assurance and subsequent development efforts to deliver a reliable tool.
As we can see, bringing patients to reconsider mHealth tools is a tough but manageable task. It requires a good understanding of your patients’ needs and technological preferences. But this is not all it takes. It also requires a fair share of creativity and inventiveness—you need to choose an approach that covers patients’ requirements in an engaging way and also helps to keep the right balance between the efforts, costs, and payoff.
Inga Shugalo is a healthcare industry analyst at Itransition, a custom software development company headquartered in Denver, Colorado. She focuses on healthcare IT, highlighting the industry challenges and technology solutions that tackle them. Shugalo’s articles explore the diagnostic potential of healthcare IoT; opportunities of precision medicine, robotics, and VR in healthcare; and more.