This marks my first post since the sudden death of my chronically ill mother last month. The journey as her caregiver solidified what I believe should be priorities for the adoption of digital health technologies. There are currently many mobile technology tools directed towards the healthcare sector, with the industry experiencing explosive growth. However, true rubber meeting the road adoption is lagging behind market expectations. Some challenges have been addressed; there is now a reimbursement mechanism for remote chronic care management, proposed legislation for the expansion of telehealth, and the entrance to the market by Apple, and Samsung. Barriers to their adoption include awareness by both the public at large and providers, cost/prioritization by strategic decision makers and challenges in the realization of interoperability. I will discuss five areas which can provide an impact in care and are available immediately.
- Scheduling: Finding a physician and scheduling an office visit are among the first tasks on the mobile health app wish list for many people. ZocDoc answered that call first. The business model is a physician-purchased subscription. Given the significant percentage of physicians who are employees of health systems, many potential customers are not subscribing. There is huge potential if enterprises subscribe. Other players include docASAP and
- Billing: Mobile apps can improve efficiencies on the provider as well as patient sides. Apps which assist in medical coding with ICD-10 will be important useful tools at the point of care. Others permit for easier payment transactions. The increasing transparency of prices in healthcare has led to development of consumer comparative shopping
- Patient satisfaction survey tools: Hospitals and physicians are now rated via patient surveys. These survey results have direct Medicare financial payment implications. The surveys are mailed to patients after discharge or office visit (often very much later). It is often difficult for patient to recall their experiences. In addition, the results are made available to the provider almost a year later, delaying corrective actions. If these surveys were available on a mobile app, I submit that there would be a higher return rate for the surveys and more rapid corrective measures as a result of more timely feedback.
- Mobile clinical trials: The ability to recruit more appropriate patients more rapidly via social media and wearable sensors using mobile technology has revolutionized the way we can conduct clinical trials. Tracking patients via mobile, collecting more accurate data and adverse events can all lead to improved study subject safety.
- Messaging: Quite a few secure ‘HIPAA compliant’ messaging apps have hit the market. The value of this technology lies in the potential for financial savings (improved discharge times, decrease in tests ordered), patient safety, and patient/caregiver satisfaction. Perhaps the historical decrease in interactions between hospital-based and office-based providers can be reversed with good messaging tools.
Healthcare enterprise C-Suite executives need to expand their horizons with respect to mobile health technologies. Organizations like MGMA and professional medical societies can be influential in this regard. The advent of bundled payment reform will, in my opinion, expedite the adoption of technologies which will decrease provider costs which is now the real ROI focus.
Disclosure: The author is an advisor to Parallel 6.