Part of the far-reaching impact of the recent pandemic has been the way it has impacted mobile health. In an atmosphere where mobility is limited due to necessity, people (both patients and caregivers) have been forced to rely on mobile and digital solutions to connect and find new ways for digital delivery of healthcare. Recent statistics from IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science’s 2021 trends report show us that more than 90,000 new digital health applications (apps) were added to app stores in 2020 for a total of 350,000 health apps currently available from the various global app stores. On average, we are talking about adding more than 250 new healthcare apps every day. The global mobile health market is expected to reach 189 Billion USD by 2025.
But if you look deeper into it, the picture gets a little skewed. Only 110 health-related apps downloaded more than 10 million times (nearly half of all downloads) which means that downloads and the corresponding use of apps are heavily skewed. This basically means that although mobile health is on the rise, it is difficult to gain patient trust. Patients are likely to seek help only from a handful of trusted and well-reviewed sources. The popularity of the NHS (National Health Service) app bears this out. It has been the most downloaded free app in England (growing from 200,000 users in January 2020 to more than 16 million in September 2021).
Despite this, the future of healthcare is clearly mobile as digital health has seen record-breaking investment in both 2020 and 2021. Globally, digital health investments got a massive infusion of $24 billion of investments in digital health in 2020 and again $14.7 billion in funding halfway through 2021, according to Rock Health’s quarterly report on digital health funding. The investments indicate that the massive uptick in app downloads is likely to continue post-pandemic as well. This is good news for patients as digital technology can indeed pave a path for them to win back a degree of control over their own health management.
Why It Matters?
While digital empowerment has been traditionally associated with improvements in both clinical and financial outcomes, its impact on health literacy has been limited. The latter is key to unlocking true digital empowerment in healthcare. Without adequate health literacy, patients cannot hope to achieve the outcomes they want in healthcare, nor stop themselves from making preventable mistakes in healthcare management and promotion. Digital health literacy can go a long way in ensuring that patients have access to the right accredited sources, in the right tone and language that enables them to take the right decisions at the right time.
How Digital Technology Can Empower the Patient
Building a Doctor-Patient Partnership
Empowering the patient to become a full-fledged partner of the healthcare delivery team is not a novel concept, but needs to be applied more widely. There is evidence in a 2015 study published in PLOS ONE that measured patient engagement within the scope of an active patient-partner program. The results were unequivocal in that patients who acted as a healthcare partner typically assumed a much more active role in their treatment. While the care was still monitored (as distinct from patient self-management), the patient triggered all follow-ups and played an active role in their recovery.
Better Health Literacy for Patients and Careers
Digital technology can be key to driving higher and better patient engagement through patient education and quick access to information. Digital technology, such as those enabled by IT Consulting Los Angeles, also enables a greater degree of personalization through improved information access, two-way remote monitoring, treatment adherence etc. all supporting better health outcomes.
Patient Partnering Requires an Effective Technology Foundation
Patient as a partner philosophy requires giving patients comprehensive access to clinical information. This presents a greater technical challenge than many anticipate. Gartner estimates that as much as 80 percent of clinically relevant content, like medical images and third-party archives, lives outside of the electronic patient record (EPR). This means that care providers are hindered technically (rather than having philosophical differences or being bound by organization policy) from enabling patients to be on the same wavelength on their healthcare journey.
As outlined before, digital technology has tremendous potential in enabling better patient outcomes through the patient undertaking a more active and informed role in their own recovery. Examples of this are evident in the way patients use technical tools to find information online, determine treatment options, rate providers, and provide reviews. Healthcare needs to be more accepting of self-management tendencies and technologies.
Enables Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)
RPM uses technical tools to monitor patient vitals and health status outside the clinic and update remote care providers in real time. This is picking up momentum with the increasing popularity of the bio sensing wearables and more portable devices capable of automatically monitoring a broader range of physiology (from posture to brain activity), processing this data into actionable insights and transmitting it to the relevant Electronic Patient Record (EPR) for care providers in real time. This can literally open frontiers for patients with chronic conditions leading to radically improved health outcomes and quality of life. Care providers also get an immediate overview of a patient’s medical history in real-time, thereby enabling early diagnoses and early intervention – even in the case of emergencies.
Brent Whitfield is the CEO of DCG Technical Solutions LLC. DCG provides specialist advice and IT Support Los Angeles area businesses need to remain competitive and productive while being sensitive to limited IT budgets.
Brent has been featured in Fast Company, CNBC, Network Computing, Reuters, and Yahoo Business. He also leads SMBTN – Los Angeles, a MSP peer group that focuses on continuing education for MSP’s and IT professionals. https://www.dcgla.com was recognized among the Top 10 Fastest Growing MSPs in North America by MSP mentor.