Thursday, April 12, 2018

Why Hasn’t Mobile Disrupted the Healthcare Industry?

Check-ups and appointments and (hopefully infrequent!) ER visits have been happening since the beginning of time, and while there have been some major changes to medicine and treatment throughout the years, there are still quite a few patient care elements that remain pretty antiquated. With so many patients having access to a smartphone, it seems almost counterintuitive to not use mobile to help with patient care. The healthcare industry is plagued with issues like overcrowding, skyrocketing care costs, and a shortage of caretakers, and we think mobile is the bandaid to help hospitals and private health systems get back on track. With just 15 percent of doctors in the U.S. discussing mobile apps with their patients, there’s a lot of room for growth in the healthcare industry.

The challenge for many developers in healthcare technology is keeping up the security measures to be HIPAA-compliant, which requires no data to be stored on a personal database and all patient information to be protected. This means that apps would have to encrypt their database to be super-secure, which can be very expensive and takes time. It also is a highly data-intensive process, requiring the download of hundreds of patient files, depending on the size of the healthcare provider. But, as the global healthcare industry increases more than 4 percent each year, patients will continue to want to take care of their health on the device they always have on hand. Mobile may lead the charge in transforming one of the most important parts of our lives. While we understand that keeping compliant with HIPAA is a long road for mobile patient care, we’ve got a few easy use cases to get the healthcare industry into the world of mobile that don’t require quite as much regulation.

Appointment Scheduling
Have you ever taken time to think about how time-consuming and outdated our current appointment setting process is? Calling your provider, waiting on the phone, picking a date and time when your specific doctor will be there, and finally confirming the appointment before the date…it’s almost uncanny in this digital age! What if you could turn to your mobile device to schedule, confirm, set reminders, and even speak to your doctor after hours in one single application? Mobile apps like Dr. Now and MedXCom are firestarters in this regard, providing a platform for patients to contact their doctors offices and even instant message with physicians about an issue.

Patient Safety
Patient safety is another no-brainer for mobile integration. How many times have you lost your prescription instructions or immediately forgot your doctor’s parting wisdom about your issue? These minor slip-ups can cause a world of hurt—especially if a condition worsens. Penn Medicine recently released an app that can tell when a prescription is about to expire, issue self-care reminders, and guiding a patient through their treatment plan.

While these use cases should tide the industry over while it works through a more streamlined way to securely provide HIPAA regulated services over mobile, here’s a perfect example of what the future holds when that compliance is met on mobile:

Real-Time Communication
When you’re coughing your lungs out, no one feels like getting up and going to the doctor’s office. Instead of having to get out of bed, what if healthcare providers were able to video chat with you, much like a Facetime call, to help preliminarily diagnose an issue? Your doc may save you time from having to drive to the office or hospital and money from the ER stay prompted by a simple cold. Mobile app, First Opinion lets users talk to their doctor for free on their mobile devices. For more serious developments in your health, they can run lab reports and send prescriptions for a small fee. Companies like First Opinion are popping up all over the healthcare space and the creative and innovative use of mobile for personal health may be one of the biggest trends we expect to see in the near future.

Now that we’ve seen a few practical use cases, the question remains: Why hasn’t the healthcare industry popularized mobile patient experiences yet?