How mHealth Should Help Patients Control Their Health

The word mHealth refers to all mobile devices and applications that give an individual the ability to connect to the different constituencies in the healthcare system. The ability to transfer selected patient health attributes to provider networks is a very important component of the current mHealth solutions. This network comprises of physicians, nurse practitioners and case workers who use the information to identify red flags in patient behaviour which can prompt the providers to take steps to manage a potential medical issue before it worsens. This results in a huge improvement of patient health and decrease in costs.

Almost everyone has a cell phone. This means that the distribution channel is already present. Also, the cost of developing software programs is low. As a result, the cost of entry in mHealth is minimal which has led to a huge increase in the number of mHealth solutions. Countless studies have credited the technology and have proven its cost effectiveness. However, the market is still immature and hence it is difficult to produce reliable long-term estimates. One thing can be said with certainty, the technology has the potential to reduce administrative costs and the number of unnecessary clinical events. In a nutshell, the new technology is actually promising.

This technology is also the best thing to happen to the US healthcare system since the idea of electronic health records. Healthcare providers are expected to work together by coordinating healthcare delivery through accountable care organizations. The information is supposed to be easily shared through healthcare information exchanges. The list of its advantages is endless. But the challenges to success remain the same: Patient privacy, forbids information sharing across platforms and organizations.

Judging by the current scenario, mHealth is most like to suffer from the structural issues that challenge other healthcareinnovations, unless something is done to prevent it. As long as patients access care from multiple healthcare providers using different systems, their complete health information will never be connected. mHealth needs comprehensive connectivity to succeed.

There is a possible way to address the issue – change the conventional thinking. If mHealth solutions were created for the patient, and not the provider, things could be a lot better. Let us see an example to understand this better.

Consider a car. Now, imagine how a driver could benefit from having a mobile app tailored for the car. Suppose the data about the car would reside with the vehicle owner and not the service provider. The app could, for example, text the driver when the vehicle reaches a certain level of miles to indicate the need for an oil change.

Now, imagine that, before the service, the service centre’s records indicate the spark plugs of the car also need cleaning. Without the app, the driver might not be able to remember whether this additional work has been done by another service provider.

With the mobile app, however, the driver would be able to call up all the services completed on the vehicle and determine that the spark plugs were recently cleaned and hence avoid paying for a service which was not required.

Now, consider the implications of such an app to healthcare. If a patient’s health information was with the patient himself and not his various providers, things would be simpler. Such an app would give patients full control of their own information, while allowing providers to access that information when required.

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