MHealth - Transforming The Face Of Service Deliveries

Sumit Puri, Chief Information Officer & Director IT, Max Healthcare Institute Ltd | Monday, 21 October 2019, 05:31 IST

Sumit Puri, Chief Information Officer & Director IT, Max Healthcare Institute LtdWe are living in interesting times; disruption is finally making its place in healthcare. Though healthcare is not as easily disrupted as the retail industry, the change in consumer and technology dynamics has put the traditional healthcare in a reactive mode. The shift towards value based care, containing rising costs of curative care, regulatory pressures, emphasis on personalised and preventive care and entry of major technology players in healthcare is driving rise of business models which are more customer centric aptly enabled with modern technologies.

There is more stress than ever before on models which can speed up time to market, increase patient access, improve efficiencies and productivity, decrease burden on the provider and innovate methods for care delivery which is more preventive and can be delivered at home minimizing the need to visit a hospital. This requires tools that can provide access to care anywhere, anytime with wider coverage.

“We are in interesting times witnessing the healthcare leveraging technology to solve actual problems and improve outcomes”

As per HIMSS report on healthcare trends forecast 2019, healthcare providers are seeking ways to best integrate emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and digital therapeutics, as a way to extend quality care to their patients where they are, when they need it. And, consumers are placing higher demands on their providers to deliver always-on access to care.                                     

The increasing need to connect with the consumer combined with rapid advances in mobile technologies and applications is leading to new opportunities for an integrated platform of existing e-Health services delivered through mobile and wireless technologies.

The mobile phone networks have penetrated deep in all classes surpassing other infrastructure such as paved roads and electricity, including fixed Internet deployment. The growing sophistication of these networks with higher speed of data transmission alongside affordable and powerful handsets are transforming the way health services and information are accessed, delivered, and managed. With increased accessibility comes the opportunity of personalization and citizen-focused public health and medical care which was unheard before.

The potential of mobile technologies– m-Health – in transforming the face of service deliveries worldwide has been recognized by the WHO (Global Observatory for e-Health series - Volume 3) Mobile health apps are majorly being used for:

1. Tracking personal health data - allergies, and medications, fitness tracking, sleep patterns, heart rate, or other vital signs.

2. Real-time connect with healthcare provider – ranging from phone call to telehealth apps that allow doctors to connect remotely. The data can be shared via EMR or patient/clinician portal, helping second opinions, specialist consults and improved care continuity.

3. Improving quality of life for doctors and their patients – Doctors can connect remotely without the need to visit, same for the patients especially in rural areas. They can help in improving efficiency with easy availability of data and decision support with improved communication.

Reuters published findings of an Orbis Research study predicting an expansion of the m-Health applications market. In 2017 m-Health captured $23 billion in revenues, with an estimated growth rate of 35% annually over the next several years. Goldman Sachs says the digital revolution could save healthcare providers $300 billion. According to the available data there are approximately 55000 estimated mobile apps across all platforms which have been downloaded by 270+ million people worldwide.

It’s clear that smartphone technology and mobile apps are going to continue to reshape healthcare.

Some interesting m-Health trends to watch out for in coming years are outlined below:

1. Personalised mobile health solutions – the solutions enabling consumers to store their own data: treatment histories, health details, habits, lifestyle, follow ups, symptoms etc. this is the data being generated by the patients themselves.

2. Geolocation enabled solutions – these shall help in finding out the hospitals, pharmacies in the vicinity, emergency ambulance calls, getting information on the outbreaks or health advisories in and around the area of residence or visit.

3. Solutions enabling communication between consumer and provider – this ranges from traditional phone calls to video chats, chatbots, facility for booking appointments, scheduling visits, ordering for home care services, placing emergency calls. The emerging trend of voice assistants can be applied for elderly care, support for chronic disease patients– preventing unnecessary follow up visits, better connect with the clinician, easy appointment bookings, platform to engage with self-help groups, easily available information and diet recommendations.

4. AI, machine learning and predictive analysis – new technology helping in monitoring treatment outcomes, suggesting changes in lifestyle, predicting risks to the patients. Mobile based drug delivery platforms are being developed that will automatically detect and log patients’ medication use to improve adherence. With increasing focus of pharmaceutical companies, this area is expected to grow in the coming years.

5. Telemedicine – in use from long, but is to continue over coming years. This is one of the fastest growing segment for exchange of health information. The volume of the global telemedicine market in 2018 was estimated at $ 25 billion, and by 2025, it is projected to reach $ 113 billion. The features actively being explored are:

a. means of anonymization of personal data,

b. development of DICOM-compatible image transfer services,

c. simplification of the diagnostic process and automating the formation of subsequent medical conclusion (based on the data obtained).

6. Wearables and IoTs – Types of wearable devices include various sensors allowing monitoring of physical activity and track health parameters and vitals like blood pressure, oxygen saturation, pulse rate and respiratory rate. Ex - breathing and chest movement sensors, three-axis accelerometers, heart rate sensors etc.

With these trends coming in, the size of health related data is going to increase manifold requiring tools to manage data confidentiality with seamless exchange of information between providers and consumers. The importance of cyber security, interoperability and standardisation of processes and data cannot be overlooked. As the healthcare industry continues to realize the benefits of mobile medical devices, healthcare security becomes even more essential. Emails continue to be the most common route of security breaches. There are several options available like next-generation firewalls, block-chain technology, healthcare cloud-based securities, secure direct messaging and health information exchange (HIE), and biometric security applications. The rapid shift to mobile and wireless devices has created an opportunity for further biometric authentication applications in this new, emerging space. The stored biometric authentication information provides an opportunity to eliminate the need for central databases – a favorite of hackers.

As stated earlier we indeed are in interesting times witnessing the healthcare leveraging technology to solve actual problems and improve outcomes. The integration of healthcare and technology platforms has brought enormous value to the way we diagnose, manage our resources, connect our consumers and providers, access healthcare anywhere and anytime and manage our processes thereby bringing in efficiencies. However, a lot more needs to be done, it depends on how the technology is integrated with people and processes to fully lever age its benefits in healthcare!

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