Taking Health into Our Own Hands: Mobile Technology, Apps and the Coming Healthcare Revolution

Oscar

Guest post by Robert Oscar, R.Ph., founder of RxEOB.

Mobile technology has changed the way we live in dramatic fashion. Now it’s changing the way we access healthcare and medical information. In fact, the popularity of health-related smartphone apps as on-the-go tools has skyrocketed. Our smartphones and other mobile devices have made health and wellness choices simple and convenient.

More people than ever before are finding physicians, managing weight, controlling allergies, looking up symptoms, making doctor appointments and even checking into the hospital through their smartphones. For the house-bound and people living in rural areas, this technology can actually save lives by greatly improving connectivity and access to care, and streamlining self-management of such chronic diseases as diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure.

Health apps can also make medical-financial tasks easier, such as integrating financial data from high-deductible health plans or comparing prices between pharmacies. Furthermore, health apps can help streamline the flow of information between health plans, physicians and patients — making communication easier, quicker and more informative.

At work, employees can take greater control of their own health and work more closely with in-network healthcare providers. This is especially true for those who are looking to save money and reduce their out-of-pocket healthcare expenses.

Today, health-related apps are used mostly for accessing information, with some mobile devices making one-on-one interaction possible. As more hospitals and doctors begin to use apps, they will be able to reach more people with greater efficiency. Along these same lines, apps designed for physicians will become better at connecting to patients’ clinical records so that information can be easily shared — where and when it is need.

The impact of the mobile app revolution is expected to grow. In fact, a recent study found that nearly 17 million consumers were accessing health information on mobile devices in 2011, according to American Medical News, representing a 125 percent increase from 2010. These statistics have experts predicting that healthcare and medical app downloads will reach 44 million this year, and 142 million by 2016.

Consider the example of a large shipping company that participated in a pilot project involving a new mobile health app. Early reports showed that 42 percent of employees who used the app saved money on their prescription drug costs, according to Employee Benefit News. These employees had easy access to prescription drug plan information via their desktop and smartphones. End result, a whopping 71 percent of the participants said they’d recommend the service, and the company savings ranged between $174 and $366 per user per year.

Ultimately, health-related apps and the wealth of information they provide help patients become more engaged in their health so that they can make better choices, cuts costs and, eventually, help ease the strain on the US healthcare system.

Robert Oscar, R.Ph., has more than 25 years of experience in healthcare. Throughout much of his career, Oscar has developed and implemented successful programs to effectively manage pharmacy benefit risk including pioneering work in the Medicare HMO market. Before founding RxEOB more than a decade ago, Oscar worked in the medical information systems industry, designing, developing and implementing several different claims analysis tools. Licensed in Virginia and certified in pharmacy-based immunization, Oscar is a graduate of Ohio Northern University.

No Surprise Here: Healthcare Mobile Technology is Changing the Industry

There’s no surprise that healthcare mobile technology is changing the industry. The movement has been underway for as long as the technology has allowed, and as the technology becomes more sophisticated, so do the ways the technology gets used.

In a recent annual research study by the Manhattan Group published by HIT Consultant, we continue to get a much clearer picture of how the U.S. physicians are using the Internet and mobile technologies in the workplace.

For the study, called “Taking the Pulse 2012,” 3,015 physicians in 25 specialties were surveyed.

Here are some of the high points.

In the United States, more than 85 percent of physicians use smartphones in the practice setting. This is up from 81 percent in 2011 and up from 72 percent in 2010. That’s 13-point jump in use of the devices in two years, but really, the number is not surprising. The devices help physicians in multiple ways, personally and professionally, there’s little doubt the increased use will continue and grow.

Next up: Tablet adoption among physicians has nearly doubled in the last years from 35 percent to 62 percent from 2011 to 2012. Clearly, that’s amazing. Of those, more than 80 percent are iPads.

Of all the tablets being used by physicians, more than half have used them at the point of care.

Regarding patient interaction and engagement, according to the Manhattan Group, 39 percent of practicing physicians communicate with patients via electronic means including email, secure messaging, instant messaging or video conferencing.

Personally, that number is higher than I expected, but it’s obviously only to grow much larger, especially as patient portals are implemented and meaningful use stage 2 looming.

Physicians also spend an average of 11 per week online for professional purposes, and those with three screens available to them – smartphone, laptop and desktop — spent more time in front of those screens than did their counterparts with just one or two screens.

What does all this data mean? You don’t need me to tell you that healthcare mobile technology is growing. It’s clearly safe to say that those of us (I’ll put myself in this group) that say healthcare is way behind the rest of society in technology use may not be able to make this claim any/much longer.

Mobile device use is exploding in all areas of our lives; healthcare is no exception. Physicians, like the rest of society, are seeing the benefits of the technology and taking steps to implement these devices into their work lives.

I believe we’re getting to the point where healthcare mobile technology will finally surpass the age of electronic health records and the shift in conversation will center around mobile health.

Like the conversations we been having for years about market/vendor contraction, the same goes for mobile health in that we’ve been talking about it for some time. Well, unlike vendor contraction, the days of mhealth are upon us and we’re seeing how a technology actually is changing a profession.

Taking the Pulse 2012