Five Big Untapped Opportunities for mHealth

1. Patient Advocates. Professional patient advocates are a growing sector of healthcare stakeholders, borne out of a need for a person to navigate billing problems, a newly diagnosed complex condition, or difficulty in communicating with providers, and clinical problems after discharge from the hospital. These advocates are well-schooled in dealing with these problems utilizing traditional resources; government agencies, connections in the healthcare system, referring ancillary care facilities, legal counsel, and more. mHealth technologies are available to help patients, providers, and caregivers alike. There are tools for education, healthcare resources, and access to EHRs. These technologies have not yet reached these companies which are relatively new themselves. There is talk of advocates possibly requiring certification in the future, and I would suggest that mobile and other wireless technologies be a part of the education of these important players.
2. Urgent Care Facilities. One sees urgent care facilities everywhere now. They have sprouted seemingly out of nowhere, with many competing companies. They are cheaper, more convenient, and more personal than a hospital’s emergency department. mHealth tools may be helpful from a medical record standpoint, as well as providing information to the patient’s EHR portal, contributing to continuity of care. The patient may be prescribed an app related to the care of the presenting complaint, and keep data which is then transmitted to the patient’s usual provider.
3. Assisted Living Communities. It is a given that patients do better convalescing or dealing with a chronic illness at home, rather than an institutional facility. Assisted living provides a modicum of healthcare needs. However, having patients ‘connected’ to providers and caregivers via mHealth technologies essentially converts assisted living into one of those ancillary medical facilities. Real time physiologic data is transmitted, which will catch medical instability prior to it becoming a more serious situation.
4. Special Needs Children. Children with medical disorders attending school either in a mainstream program or specialized school often create anxiety on the part of parents, as well as educators who are not well-informed about the specific problem. The shortage of skilled school nurses is a well-known phenomenon. Service dogs have been given to some children. Remote monitoring of some of these students with mHealth tools will allow real-time surveillance by parents as well as providers, with actionable alert features which may be acted upon by educators or school administrators. In addition, there are educational tools which may be utilized by teachers, other students, and school nurses (even a regional one).
5. Long Distance Transportation. Traveling long distances has been a problem for many patients. They are far away from their traditional healthcare providers and sometimes from their caregivers and even from healthcare facilities. I recall when the first cruise trip dedicated to patients with implantable defibrillators was established. A cardiac electrophysiologist needed to be on board. Those were the days prior to remote patient monitoring. mHealth tools may be used for caregivers to track these patients and their conditions, for providers to be available electronically for alerts, and to render instructions regarding the nearest appropriate facility for care. This pertains to cross-country bus trips, cruises, or private trips.
While mHealth to some implies either a non-essential aid for wellness, an in-hospital service, or tools for the transitioning patient, it also should be targeted for areas of the healthcare ecosystem involving these unique outpatient situations. I look forward to its diffuse adoption in the near future.

About davidleescher

David Lee Scher, MD is Founder and Director at DLS HEALTHCARE CONSULTING, LLC, which specializes in advising digital health technology companies, their partners, investors, and clients. As a cardiac electrophysiologist and pioneer adopter of remote patient monitoring, he understood early on the challenges that the culture and landscape of healthcare present to the development and adoption of digital technologies. He is a well-respected thought leader in mobile and other digital health technologies. Scher lectures worldwide on relevant industry topics including the role of tech in Pharma, patient advocacy, standards for development and adoption, and impact on patients and healthcare systems from clinical, risk management, operational and marketing standpoints. He is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine.
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