If your healthcare organization isn’t considering mHealth in its efforts to improve treatment outcomes, promote patient engagement, and increase profitability, chances are you’re falling behind the times. Mobile health isn’t just the future of healthcare anymore – it’s here now, patients are increasingly asking for it, and the big players in the industry have taken note.
With the success of health and fitness trackers like Fitbit and diet and exercise apps like MyFitnessPal, it’s obvious that consumer priorities are shifting. Patients want to be more active participants in their health, and they’re looking for ways to do so by leveraging mHealth technologies – not surprising, considering 79 percent of smartphone users have their phone on or near them for most of the waking day.
It’s because of this that companies like Apple, Samsung, and Google (not typically considered authorities in healthcare) are investing heavily in mHealth technologies and toolkits for developers to easily build healthcare-related mobile apps.
Here’s some of what the big players have in store:
Apple entered the healthcare space earlier this year with the release of iOS8 and its HealthKit platform, which aggregates health, fitness, and medical data from third-party devices and apps. The technology giant also announced strategic partnerships with software vendors Epic, Cerner and Athenahealth to develop applications that connect HealthKit to the vendors’ EHR systems, making it easy for patients to share HealthKit data with their physicians and vice versa.
The company also announced the highly anticipated Apple Watch, a high-end wearable device that is set to go on sale in 2015 which will allow users to measure body movement, take their heart rate, and track health and fitness goals.
The biggest challenge for Apple and its foray into healthcare will be getting people to pay upwards of $400 for the Apple Watch. Their alliance with major EHR vendors, however, will almost certainly ensure success.
Samsung’s no newbie to the healthcare scene – they’ve been developing medical devices and healthcare solutions for years. They had a health app before Apple did, they released their Galaxy Gear watch last year, and they were also first to introduce a fitness wristband, the Gear Fit.
Plus, almost as an anticipated response to the Apple Watch, Samsung unveiled plans this year for a futurist health tracker it’s calling Simband. There’s no release date in sight yet, but the buzz surrounding the wearable band is huge. According to the company, Simband will be able to track things like blood pressure, respiration, heart rate, hydration level, and the amount of carbon dioxide in the wearer’s blood by using wavelengths of light beamed at the skin.
Let’s face it, Simband sounds a lot cooler than the Apple Watch. But will Samsung users be ready to pay what is likely to be a hefty sum just to better monitor their health and fitness?
When it comes to healthcare, Google’s been there and failed (see: Google Health) – but they keep trying. And if anyone has the resources to succeed, it’s Google.
In response to the release of Apple’s HealthKit, Google announced its own health data platform earlier this year called Google Fit, an open platform that will allow users to control their fitness data. The Internet giant is working with companies like Nike, Adidas, Polar, Intel and Runkeeper to develop fitness apps and devices that will integrate with Google Fit.
With Apple and Samsung being more established players in the mobile app game, it won’t be easy for Google to break in. Plus, the biggest problem with their app is that it won’t track health data, just fitness, making it an incomplete solution compared to its main competitors.
Using mHealth to Improve Health Outcomes
Has your healthcare organization implemented or considered implementing an mHealth program? Studies show that even something as simple as text message reminders can go a long way towards improving patient care and increasing medication adherence. It can also improve profitability – just ask Kaiser Permanente. The healthcare provider conducted a pilot program a few years ago and reduced no-shows by 0.73 percent just by sending appointment reminders via text message, totaling over $275,000 in annual savings at one location alone.
Do you think mHealth has what it takes to get patients more involved in their health? If so, which health and wellness goals would you be most willing to encourage patients to track?