Background to mobile health
If you work in the healthcare industry, you will probably have heard the term mobile health.
The number of healthcare practices that have started implementing mHealth features into their work is growing at an exponential rate, and it is becoming increasingly important for healthcare workers to consolidate their understanding of how these systems operate.
Before we begin, let’s first look at the origins of mobile health and why it has become one of the fastest-growing industries within the healthcare field. Pew Research Center recorded that 97% of Americans own some sort of mobile device, and 85% use a smartphone. These numbers are massive, and are predicted to keep growing. As more and more people use devices, it has become increasingly important for various industries, including healthcare, to find a way to use this to their advantage. And this is where mobile health comes in. We know that the majority of people are using mobile phones, so by giving them access to healthcare-related information on their device, healthcare practices are able to engage with a greater number of patients.
We’ll explain more in-depth what the benefits of mobile health are, but for now, it’s just important to know that this technology has been associated with higher patient engagement, greater quality of care, and improved clinical outcomes. If these are results that you are interested in (and any healthcare professional should be), then we recommend reading ahead and furthering your understanding of mobile health.
What is mobile health?
Mobile health refers to the use of technology and mobile features within the healthcare field. The most common application of mobile health is the use of mobile devices to store and share medical information to educate consumers and patients. However, the popularity of mHealth and the advancements in the technology have led to it has numerous other applications, including remote delivery of care, patient monitoring, and the streamlining of administrative tasks within a healthcare practice.
These functions are all designed to improve patient care and health outcomes, and improvements in both software and hardware have allowed a greater number of patients to have access to health resources. Mobile health is revolutionizing the healthcare industry, and we are seeing significant, positive results impacting both patients and practitioners. Utilizing technology within the healthcare field is an exciting venture that holds great possibility, and we believe it is in your best interest to familiarize yourself with how these systems work.
The difference between telehealth and mobile health
Before we dive into the various forms of mobile health, we want to quickly point out an important distinction. One of the biggest mistakes that people make when it comes to understanding mobile health, is assuming it is the same as telehealth. And while they do have certain overlapping features, it is important to understand where they differ. Telehealth refers to any sort of healthcare that uses telecommunications technology, whereas mobile health refers exclusively to healthcare delivered via a mobile device.
Different mobile health applications
Mobile health can be thought of as a broad umbrella term, under which many different forms belong. It will take too long to go into detail about every single application of mobile health, but we have compiled a summary of four of the most well-known and widely used applications:
Telemedicine: Telemedicine refers to the use of technology to provide healthcare solutions to patients. Telemedicine and mHealth aren’t the same thing, but telemedicine often uses mHealth features. With telemedicine, patients can receive healthcare from the comfort of their own homes, eliminating the need to physically attend a clinic. Telemedicine has been adopted by a variety of different healthcare professionals, including general practitioners, nurses, physical therapists, and psychologists, meaning that regardless of what type of care you need, there are options available to you. One of the biggest advantages of telemedicine is the fact that it eliminates one of the biggest barriers that prevent patients from seeking healthcare; accessibility. Now, regardless of whether you live remotely or don’t have a local specialist working near you, you will be able to access the care you need.
Mobile health apps: Mobile health apps are a fantastic way for healthcare businesses to begin utilizing mHealth systems. They are integrated with a variety of different features designed to streamline administrative tasks and help elevate patient engagement. Although the specific features included in an app will differ depending on the needs of a practice, they commonly include appointment scheduling systems, online payment options, a patient portal, and access to a client’s medical records. Mobile health apps allow patients and practitioners to connect remotely, and facilitate effective communication and greater clinical outcomes.
Artificial intelligence: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a sophisticated and continually advancing form of technology that is becoming increasingly utilized within the mobile health industry. AI can regulate and manage electronic health records, monitor patient information, and autofill various forms. One of the most important capabilities of AI is its ability to produce predictive data analysis, giving healthcare practices insight into the strengths and weaknesses of their business operations. With this information, businesses can focus their time and resources into areas that require improvement, and elevate the quality of their services.
Remote patient monitoring: Mobile health also allows for improved remote patient monitoring, a service that is particularly useful for patients with chronic illnesses or who are recovering from surgery. Wearable devices can monitor patients remotely and gather information regarding their health condition, including blood glucose levels, oxygen levels, physical activity, height, weight, sleeping patterns, and location. This information is sent to the practitioner in real-time, and any concerning changes in data will alert them immediately. Remote patient monitoring is an excellent way of ensuring that practitioners stay informed about their patients’ health status without compromising the patient’s ability to go about their everyday life.
As you can see, mobile health has a role to play in a wide variety of different scenarios. Depending on the size of your practice and the services that you offer, you may find that some of these applications are more relevant than others. The best part about mobile health is that you can easily decide on the features that suit your needs and use them to elevate your services.
Who can use mobile health?
One of the greatest things about the development of mobile health technology is that it can be implemented and utilized by any and all healthcare professions. The majority of mobile health apps and other systems were developed without a specific profession in mind; generally, they are designed to allow different practitioners to access and deliver their work from their mobile devices. As such, the solutions that we are describing in this guide are highly applicable to most healthcare professions, including:
- General practitioners
- Mental health
- Physical therapy
- Children and family specialists
Furthermore, there are no guidelines or restrictions pertaining to how you operate your business that dictate whether or not mHealth is for you. As technology advances, we are seeing widespread implementation from professionals who work alone, start-ups, small businesses, and massive hospital institutions. Regardless of the size of your practice or the scope of your services, mHealth is guaranteed to provide you with mobile solutions that improve efficiency, productivity, and accessibility.
Mobile health apps
So now you know what mobile health is and who typically uses it, but what exactly does it include? To give a more detailed overview of how mobile health can be applied within the healthcare realm, we’re going to dive deeper into how mobile health apps work.
Mobile health apps have been developed by numerous different technology companies to give healthcare practices access to mHealth solutions. The industry was valued at USD 40.05 billion in 2020, and is predicted to keep growing, with evidence suggesting it will revolutionize the way healthcare is delivered.
Features included within mobile health apps
Although the specific features included in mobile health apps differ, the goal of these systems is the same. They are designed to improve accessibility, efficiency, and effectiveness of health care, whilst easing certain administrative processes. Some of the most common features integrated into mobile health apps include:
Appointment booking: Managing appointment scheduling is one of the most complicated and time-consuming tasks related to operating a healthcare business. Not only do the time preferences of patients need to be taken into consideration, but you also need to factor in the availability of practitioners, facilities, and specific medical equipment. Mobile health apps help ease this process by allowing patients to select an available appointment time that suits their own schedule. Additionally, booking features allow practitioners to view their upcoming appointments and meetings and alter their availability when necessary.
Video conferencing: Accessing remote healthcare is highly facilitated by video conferencing features that allow practitioners to connect with their patients no matter where they are in the world. Mobile health apps are often integrated with secure video conferencing, a feature that has greatly increased in popularity since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Integration with EHR: Most healthcare practices currently utilize EHR (electronic health records) systems, where patient data and medical records are stored. EHR systems typically use cloud-based technology, meaning that any changes or additions to the records are updated in real-time. Mobile health apps need to be able to integrate with the EHR system that a healthcare practice already has in place, in order for the relevant information to be accessible to practitioners.
E-Prescriptions: E-prescription features allow general practitioners and other healthcare providers to fill out a prescription remotely and send it to their patients via the mobile health app. Alternatively, patients can use this feature to request a refill, which their provider can authorize without requiring a face-to-face appointment. E-prescriptions help reduce unnecessary appointments, enhance patient safety and improve effective communication.
Online payments: Everyone knows that the billing process required by the healthcare system is incredibly complicated and time-consuming. Introducing online payment options can help eliminate some of the complexity of the payment process by allowing patients to stay on top of their invoices and make their payments promptly.
Connect with wearable devices: We mentioned previously that one of the most effective applications of mobile health is the use of remote patient monitoring devices. With the right mHealth app, providers can access their patient’s devices and be alerted to any important data immediately. Most of these systems utilize cloud-based technology, meaning that any changes are updated in the system in real-time, elevating quality of care and patient safety.
Advantages of mobile health
When any new system or form of technology is becoming more common within the healthcare industry, it is important to analyze its benefits and assess whether it is truly advantageous. Fortunately, the increase in the use of mobile health has led to reviews that point out various different benefits for both practitioners and patients.
Access: Accessibility is likely the most significant outcome that has resulted from the widespread use of mHealth features. Utilizing mobile health allows patients who can’t access physical healthcare services to nevertheless receive the care that they need. Whether it is because they live remotely, have accessibility issues, require child care when they leave home, are disabled or elderly, mHealth provides a solution to receiving healthcare remotely. On the other hand, accessibility is also improved for practitioners. Mobile health apps allow practitioners to update patient records, complete clinical documentation and authorize E-prescriptions regardless of where they are in the world.
Communication: Communication has always been a complex issue within the healthcare system. Practitioners often have a lot on their hands, and maintaining constant and effective communication with their patients requires time that they don’t have. Nevertheless, patients are increasingly citing their desire for the healthcare process to be as transparent as possible and it has become apparent that ineffective communication is the greatest barrier to achieving this. Mobile health apps offer a solution to this challenge, by providing various tools designed to elevate patient-practitioner communication. Patients can schedule appointments, request prescription refills, view their medical records, and raise any queries or concerns via a two-way communication channel that is accessible 24/7. These features help to minimize ineffective communication and consequently reduce mismanagement and poor clinical outcomes.
Remote patient monitoring: Managing the health of patients with chronic illnesses or those who are recovering post-surgery can be an especially difficult challenge for some healthcare practices. Often, these patients will be required to attend face-to-face appointments for minor check-ups, which can disrupt their day-to-day life and also result in reduced available appointments for other patients in need. Mobile health allows these patients to forgo the appointments without compromising their health, as practitioners can monitor their condition remotely.
Self-management: In addition to wanting transparency to improve, patients have also cited their desire to play a more hands-on role in managing their own healthcare. Mobile health apps facilitate this self-management by encouraging patients to make their own appointments and pay their invoices online. Additionally and perhaps more importantly, these apps also display patient medical records that are updated in real-time. Patients can log onto their portal and view their most recent records, allowing them to stay informed about their current condition and encouraging them to be more involved in looking after their health.
Medication adherence: Many healthcare practitioners experience difficulty with managing their patients’ medication adherence after they have been discharged or leave in-patient care. When patients fail to take their medication, it can contribute to an increase in readmissions, a deterioration in symptoms, and worse clinical outcomes. Mobile health apps can target these issues by providing medication reminders, E-prescriptions, refills, and general medical education, all designed to improve the rate of medication adherence.
Disadvantages of mobile health
Whilst it can be tempting to only focus on the good things, refusing to acknowledge the potential disadvantages of a new system is unwise. Although mobile health poses a wide array of benefits for both patients and practitioners, there are a few areas that have health professionals concerned.
Data privacy: Given how much confidential information the healthcare industry is required to process, it is no surprise that data privacy is one of the biggest concerns when it comes to introducing electronic systems. We’ll get into the specific security regulations that are required for mHealth a bit later, but it is important to understand just how crucial privacy is. Furthermore, regardless of the security protocols that each mobile health app has in place, storing data online will always pose at least some level of threat.
Inaccuracies: The popularity of mobile health has led to the development of various apps that aren’t medically accurate. For example, there has been an increase in the number of apps that say they can read an individual’s blood pressure and glucose levels by pressing their fingers to the screen. Research by professionals discovered that these weren’t based on any scientific reasoning and the results were inaccurate. Mobile health apps offering inaccurate information can be misleading for patients and can result in people not seeking healthcare even when they should.
As you can see, mobile health has a variety of advantages and disadvantages for the healthcare system. And whilst it would be unwise to completely disregard the risks, it is important to weigh them against the benefits. According to the lists we’ve provided, there are a significantly greater amount of advantages to mobile health than there are disadvantages. Additionally, the risks we have explained can be mitigated. Whilst data privacy is always a concern, the right protocols in place will help keep leakages and unauthorized access to a minimum. Regarding the possibility of inaccurate mobile health apps, there have been attempts made to eliminate these, and disclaimers regarding medical inaccuracies are often required.
Improving the patient experience with mobile health
In recent years, the healthcare industry has begun to shift towards a model of consumer-based care. Although the important principles of healthcare remain the same, there has been an increased focus on the way that services are delivered. In particular, consumer-based care places a lot of importance on patient satisfaction and the way that patients respond to their treatment. Patients are more interested in their healthcare experience being as transparent as possible and are seeking out ways to play a more involved role. Fortunately, implementing mobile health technology into your practice provides you with solutions for these goals.
Mobile health apps provide patients with access to information regarding their healthcare, including appointment schedules, payment details, and medical records. Additionally, these tools are often integrated with video conferencing options and two-way communication channels that allow patients to raise any questions or concerns with their providers. All of these features encourage and incentivize patients to play a more involved role in managing their health, as well as keeping them informed about their current diagnosis, treatment, and progress.
Mobile health also facilitates more effective inter-provider communication, which has trickle-down effects for patients. It isn’t uncommon for a patient’s experience in the healthcare industry to include numerous providers, departments, and facilities. When managing the continuity of care, providers need to effectively communicate with each other to guarantee that the patient is receiving the right kind of treatment. Mobile health solutions allow providers to communicate with each other quickly on their devices, with the additional ability to share and transfer medical records, patient data, and clinical notes. By making communication easier and more efficient, mHealth facilitates informed patient treatment and ultimately better clinical outcomes.
When it comes to introducing new systems into a healthcare clinic, a lot of the focus is centered around how it will benefit practitioners, but it is equally important to consider the patient impact. Mobile health has been demonstrated to be a highly effective tool in elevating patient experience and ensuring that client needs are prioritized. With mHealth, not only will your healthcare practice witness improved efficiency and accessibility, but patients will have the benefit of experiencing better communication and clinical outcomes.
As you know, data security is one of the biggest concerns when it comes to implementing new electronic systems into healthcare practices, and mobile health is no different. The healthcare industry is required to handle a significant amount of confidential patient information, and this must be done safely and securely. Although there will always be inevitable threats to the safety of certain data, there are protocols that can be put in place to minimize these threats. When introducing mobile health features into your practice, it is your responsibility to ensure that the right regulations are in effect so your patients can feel confident that their data is safely secured.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act enforces regulations that are designed to protect patient privacy and manage how data is stored and transmitted. Although there are some special instances where a health app doesn’t need to be HIPAA compliant (e.g. it doesn’t have storage or sharing capabilities), this is not usually the case. Basically, if an app stores, processes, or transfers PHI (protected health information), it needs to follow HIPAA regulations.
HIPAA is separated into four areas; privacy, security, enforcement, and breach notification. We won’t go into too much detail here, but basically, each of these areas covers different requirements for covered entities and business associates to stay compliant. If a healthcare practice or vendor breaches these regulations, they are at risk of severe consequences. The individual practitioner responsible for the breach and the practice they work for can face up to a $1.4 million fine per year, as well as jail time. Additionally, HIPAA breaches can lead to patient mistrust and a seriously damaged reputation. The specific protocols required by HIPAA frequently change, and it can be difficult for healthcare companies to stay up-to-date with the most recent regulations. Nevertheless, maintaining compliance is essential to implementing mobile health solutions, so we have provided a brief outline on how to achieve compliance when using mHealth apps.
How to stay compliant: building your own app
One of the two options, when a practice chooses to implement mobile health options, is to develop its app. This process has its own set of requirements to ensure that it is HIPAA-compliant, and whilst there are different ways you can go about achieving optimal compliance, we have created a general guideline for you to follow:
Step 1: Find an expert: We have already mentioned that HIPAA regulations are frequently modified, and staying up-to-date with the most recent changes can be a difficult task. If you are looking at creating your mobile health app, the best way to ensure compliance is by employing an expert to guide you. A professional will be able to point you in the right direction regarding what is required in your specific location, as certain compliance guidelines can differ depending on the state you live in.
Step 2: Access controls: Implementing the right type of access controls is one of the most critical steps to ensuring HIPAA compliance. Your app needs to have physical, technical, and administrative accessibility requirements in the form of identity authentication, session timeouts, and password protection.
Step 3: Encryption: Any data that exists on your app needs to be encrypted, regardless of whether it is in storage or being processed/transferred. There are different levels and layers of encryption that can be applied to data, and it is in your best interest to utilize the most secure form. Encrypting data helps ensure the safety of patient information and will protect you from any breaches, leakages, or unauthorized access.
Step 4: Audit yourself: Healthcare businesses need to take responsibility for storing their patient’s data. The best way to determine any weaknesses or areas for improvement in a mobile health app is by running a self-audit. The data analysis from an audit should reveal whether there are any risks during the storage or transfer processes, and you should respond to these risks accordingly.
Step 5: Policies: After you have developed your app, you need to outline clear policies regarding how patient data can be handled, and who has the authorization to access it. Your policies should be easily accessible by users of the app to ensure that every staff member and practitioner is informed of their role to play in protecting patient data.
How to stay compliant: vetting a vendor
The other option for healthcare companies who wish to introduce a mobile health app is to find a vendor who has already developed a system that they wish to use. These apps should all be HIPAA-compliant, however, there are a few general things that you will want to look out for when doing your research.
Step 1: Read reviews: This is a simple yet effective method of determining whether or not a vendor has appropriate security protocols in place. You should be fairly selective and go into the process of reviewing with high standards.
Step 2: Specialization: Although mobile health apps typically have similar features, you may have certain preferences for your specific health specialization. Additionally, different healthcare professions have their own nuances that distinguish them. A good way to find a vendor that is suitable for your practice is by asking colleagues who work elsewhere what apps they use.
Step 3: Training program: When introducing any new system into the workplace, it is a good idea to run a training program to ensure that all staff members have at least a basic understanding of how the system works. Many mobile health app vendors will include some sort of basic training with their installation, allowing you and your employees to feel confident that everyone is aware of the security protocols.
Note: One of the regulations introduced by HIPAA dictates that Business Associates and Covered Entities must enter into a Business Associate Agreement. Basically, a Business Associate is any third-party individual or company that is responsible for creating, storing, or sharing PHI (protected health information), which in this case, would be the vendor that you choose. The BAA guarantees that the third party is legally compliant in protecting your PHI. When you find a vendor, we recommend discussing their specific compliance policies and ensuring that you have a hard-copy version of the signed BAA before you begin to utilize their services.
Becoming a mobile healthcare practice
We’ve introduced you to the topic of mobile health, its advantages and disadvantages, and how to stay compliant. Now, it's time to turn to the actual process of introducing mHealth to your practice. There are basically two options for you to choose from; you can either utilize mHealth features in addition to running face-to-face appointments, or you can solely operate as a mobile health business. Regardless of what you decide, there is a multitude of different things you should be aware of, and this is where we can help.
Factors to consider when choosing a mobile health provider
Different mobile health systems will include various features, some of which may be more suitable to your needs than others. Although we don’t know for sure the specific tools that your business requires, we have developed a list of some of the key features to consider when choosing a mobile health provider:
Appointment scheduling features: One of the biggest reasons why healthcare practices implement electronic systems into their businesses is to manage appointment scheduling. Choosing a mobile health provider that has sophisticated appointment scheduling features will allow you to streamline this process, all whilst guaranteeing patient and practitioner satisfaction.
Online payments: Similarly to appointment scheduling, the payment process is a highly complex aspect of working within the healthcare industry. By introducing online payment options, patients can stay on top of their invoices and ensure that all of their appointments are paid for promptly. Additionally, many mobile health apps are integrated with automated invoice reminders that can be customized and sent to patients. These reminders decrease the likelihood of late payments and also eliminate the need for any awkward phone calls!
Interoperability: It is highly likely that your healthcare practice already has some sort of electronic system in place. The most commonly used software by medical practices is EHR (electronic health records); a database that stores and transfers patient medical records and clinical documentation. When you are looking at a mobile health system to implement into your practice, it needs to have a high level of interoperability so it can access information stored in other systems. Lack of interoperability can lead to ineffective communication, wrong treatment decisions, and poor clinical outcomes.
Compliance features: We have already explained the importance of a mobile health provider having regulations in place that guarantee HIPAA compliance, so it should come as no surprise to you that this is one of the most important factors to take into consideration. When evaluating a potential provider’s compliance guidelines, you should look into client reviews, the type of encryption they use, how they respond to breaches, and any relevant past incidents. As a healthcare business, you have a responsibility when it comes to looking after your patients’ data, and this is a responsibility you need to take seriously, especially when you involve third parties.
Checklist for operating as a mobile health practice
If your healthcare practice has decided to operate entirely from a mobile platform, there are certain considerations to be aware of. Although the goal of mobile health is the same as if you were working from a physical clinic (delivering healthcare solutions to patients in need), staying competitive with other remote practices requires you to focus on certain areas. To help ensure that your business is as successful as possible, we have developed a checklist for you to follow:
Target audience: Just the same as when any business begins operating, it is important to have a target clientele in mind. Because mobile health elevates accessibility, it is a good idea to target patients who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to access healthcare. For example, you may want to look into low-income or rural communities; marketing your services towards these groups will help ensure that the people who most need your help will be able to access it.
Hire the right staff: Whilst most mobile health systems take into consideration the fact that people have varying levels of technological skill, it is still a good idea to hire staff that is competent at using their mobile device. Additionally, you want to have staff members who are able to communicate effectively without relying on body language and non-verbal cues, and can empathize with a wide range of patients. Although being an excellent medical professional is definitely important, having interpersonal skills will help you engage with your patients more effectively and build a strong clientele.
Regulations: We have already been over the importance of being HIPAA-compliant so we’ll keep this part brief. The only other important thing to keep in mind is that you are aware of the specific rules and regulations that relate to where your business operates. Even as a mobile health company, you are still required to adhere to the legal regulations of your state, so it is of utmost importance that you familiarize yourself with these.
Marketing: The marketing aspect of operating a healthcare business is unfortunately often looked over. You should always allocate a certain amount of your resources and time to building up your clientele and reaching out to potential patients, especially if you are a start-up. In reality, marketing doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Things like email campaigns, promotional flyers, advertisements, and social media are a good start to marketing your business.
Goals: Lastly, the importance of setting and reviewing goals is one of the most fundamental aspects of beginning any business. Laying out your plan and assessing whether you achieved what you set out to achieve will allow you to identify any necessary areas for improvement or strategies to help you keep your business going. Goals also help show you what your strengths are, allowing you to track your progress and note your achievements.
A large barrier preventing healthcare businesses from implementing mobile health features into their practice is related to cost. This is completely understandable, especially given the fact that all healthcare practices are essentially businesses, and a business needs to stay profitable in order to keep operating. Although introducing a new system is definitely going to have costs involved, the popularity of mHealth means that there are options that will be affordable regardless of your budget.
Remote patient monitoring devices: Whilst using remote patient monitoring devices is a great solution for various different patients, the specific equipment required can be quite expensive. Although different options depend on the devices required, one study suggested using RPM costs somewhere between USD $1000-$2000 annually per patient. Before you look into implementing RPM in your practice, you should determine whether you have patients that would truly benefit from these features, or if you potentially need to market to a wider clientele. Further, despite the costs associated with RPM, there is a high likelihood that it will be cost-effective in the long run, as you will save money and time in other areas of business.
Equipment required for general mobile health: Mobile health is all about the ability to deliver healthcare education, advice, and services via a mobile device. As such, becoming a mobile health practice means you should have the latest, or at least fairly recent, mobile device. Given how frequently medical records and patient information is shared between healthcare providers, it is necessary for practitioners who work at the same business to have compatible devices. An initial fee when implementing mHealth solutions into your practice is therefore upgrading all staff members’ devices so they are compatible and the technology can be relied upon.
Finding a mHealth app: Typically, using a pre-existing mHealth app is going to be significantly cheaper than developing your own. In saying that, most mHealth apps will have some kind of fee attached, depending on the features you require and the services you are planning on offering. Whilst we understand that high costs can be a deterrent, it makes sense to pay a bit more and have a better system. Many mHealth apps are integrated with various other telehealth and practice management features. This type of software typically uses cloud-based technology, and businesses will pay a monthly subscription fee.
Developing a mHealth app: Developing an app is undoubtedly the most expensive venture associated with implementing mobile health, and will cost anywhere between USD $400,000 to $500,000 just for the original app. Although having a specific app for your business has its own benefits, this is an enormous cost that many practices simply will not be able to afford. Nevertheless, the alternative of implementing a pre-existing app created by a third-party company is still highly advantageous and more importantly, highly affordable.
Tips for ensuring your mobile health feature are effective
Whilst the implementation and use of mobile health technology are fairly intuitive, there are definite nuances to becoming an expert. Although in time you will figure out the best ways to manage mHealth in your practice, we have compiled a shortlist of strategies that will help ensure you are using the technology as effectively as possible.
Ensure privacy: The information that is disclosed between a patient and a practitioner during a session can often be highly personal. As such, information must be kept private. In order to ensure privacy, practices need to have certain protocols in place, including password-protection, two-factor authorization, and guidelines dictating how information should be stored and shared. When a patient seeks care, they want to be able to trust their environment and know that their medical records remain confidential. As their practitioner, it is your responsibility to guarantee this is the case.
Maintain ethics: We have already gone over the importance of HIPAA and staying compliant so we’ll keep this short. If you use video conferencing features to deliver your services online, HIPAA guidelines remain the same. You also need to factor in the different risks that are associated with mHealth, including data leaks, hacking, and jeopardized information. Introducing new guidelines within your practice and ensuring that your staff is informed about the right way to protect data will help protect both your patients and practitioners.
Minimize distractions: Using video conferencing to deliver healthcare services is an especially useful and common application of mHealth, however, it comes with its own set of requirements. One of the most important aspects of delivering healthcare remotely is ensuring that the online experience is as similar to an in-person appointment as possible, and this means minimizing any potential background distractions. It is a good idea for practitioners to use an office-style space where they won’t be interrupted when they are speaking with their patients. Additionally, and we know this might sound obvious, the internet connection you are using must be high-quality. Adjusting to a different type of healthcare can be daunting for patients, and eliminating the risk of these small occurrences will help guarantee they are comfortable and confident in your work.
Intentional communication: Communication is an essential aspect of all types of healthcare, and it is also a skill that many practitioners struggle to execute effectively. Communication from a mobile health perspective is slightly different than in traditional healthcare, making it all the more important for practitioners to focus on. Whether you are messaging or video conferencing with a patient, you must be clear with what you are trying to say. Non-verbal cues and body language cannot be relied upon, so your verbal communication skills must be clear and concise.
Bearing these tips in mind when you use mobile health services will not only allow you to become an expert, but it will elevate efficiency, improve your relationships with patients, and hopefully contribute to better clinical outcomes.
Current trends in the mobile health industry
Whilst mobile health has been around for quite a while, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent physical restrictions led to a massive boom in the mHealth industry. Patients seeking medical care could receive high-quality solutions from the comfort of their own home with video conferencing features, and practitioners were able to continue their work without having to go into the office. Following the surge in the industry, studies have been conducted into the preferences and opinions of both practitioners and patients regarding mobile health. A study conducted by Artezio reported the following statistics:
- 74% of hospitals have increased efficiency because of mobile devices.
- 43% of practitioners access patient data using mobile devices.
- 74% of consumers say they are open to a remote health appointment.
These findings are fairly significant, as they indicate the massive shift that is happening in the healthcare industry. Developing technology opens up many doors for both patients and practitioners, and is being utilized in a way that enables significantly improved access and clinical results. Although change takes time, it is reasonably evident that mobile health is revolutionizing the way care is delivered, and whilst daunting, this is an incredibly exciting move. Patients who were previously subjected to barriers preventing them from receiving care, including those who live in rural areas, are elderly, or have general access issues, can now easily receive the healthcare they need. Additionally, mHealth offers various solutions for healthcare practices and providers. We are witnessing a system that is under significant amounts of pressure, with too many patients and not enough providers to care for them. Features like remote patient monitoring and virtual appointments will help lessen the strain on the system, freeing up time and allowing practitioners to treat patients in need.
As we see steady increases in the number of people who own a mobile device globally, it is becoming more and more likely that mHealth will be the way of the future. Mobile health apps can help educate people on various issues and are fantastic preventative resources. Technology is continuously improving, especially Artificial Intelligence, and it will likely become even more embedded in the current systems.
With these exciting prospects in mind, we are going to wrap up our guide to mobile health, with the hope that we have taught you some useful things. Although we have written this with the primary aim of being informative, we would be doing you a great disservice if we didn’t at least try to persuade you to embrace mHealth. The reality of the changing healthcare industry indicates that if you want to stay competitive with other businesses, it truly is in your best interest to look into adopting some mHealth solutions. The intuitive yet advanced systems they utilize will allow you to access a greater number of patients, all whilst saving both time and resources for your business.
If you are interested in reading further about mobile health and how it is impacting the broader healthcare industry, we recommend having a look at the following articles:
- Identifying Opportunities for Workflow Automation in Health Care: Lessons Learned from Other Industries
- How To Use Automation In Healthcare Marketing
- Development of the mHealth App Trustworthiness checklist
- The Mobile Health App Trustworthiness Checklist: Usability Assessment
- Mobile technology's presence in healthcare
- The adoption of mobile healthcare by hospital's professionals: An integrative perspective
- Mobile Health Vehicles Market Size, Growth (2021-2028)
- New horizons for health through mobile technologies
- Using Mobile Health Gamification to Facilitate Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Skills Practice in Child Anxiety Treatment
- Protect and secure health information when using a mobile device
- Mobile Phone Usage & HIPAA Regulations
- The Use of Mobile Health Applications to Improve Patient Experience
- Mobile Devices and Apps for Health Care Professionals: Uses and Benefits