By Saqib Ayaz, co-founder, Workflow Management and Optimization.
Gone are the days when people had to rush to the doctor for regular checkups or medications. Now, with technological advancements, they don’t need to go to the hospital for every small or big health issue. All these are possible because of smartphones. Smartphones have now become a perfect mHealth tool for customized medicine, sending targeted information as well as notification and collecting individual data. Do you know what the best part is? The data that are being used in order to boost population health programs, is getting huge success.
The reason behind the success of this population health messaging using smartphones is simple. An estimated 96 percent of people around the world are using smartphones. This makes it easier for mHealth messaging programs to reach almost all the people in a defined population. Compared to phone calls, people, these days, are making more use of texting and emails to communicate. This has let the healthcare providers create customized and interactive messages that are rich in content and that drives engagement. There are many population health programs that are based on mHealth such as maternal health, smoking, infant health, physical activity, weight loss as well as depression or anxiety. There are also other programs that give people a reminder to visit a doctor for checkups of their children. Some others include programs that are aimed at chronic populations with asthma, diabetes or HIV.
According to a recent study, 91 percent of people admitted that their knowledge of IEHP services was improved with text messages. Compared to a control group, their engagement rate was 2.5 times better. Also, among them, 10 percent participated in a series of health challenges, while one-third completed the challenges. It can be said that there are mainly two reasons why this text messaging became so popular:
- About 98 percent of people read it
- Text messaging is used by almost 80 percent of the U.S.’ Medicaid population
According to experts, if healthcare providers are going to use mHealth messaging, then they may follow the below-mentioned tips in order to create an effective engagement platform –
- Tell patients what they need to do to get the desired results
What if the patients do not understand what their doctors want them to do and why? This is why it is important that you teach the patients very well as to why and what they need to do so that they can properly follow the care instructions. You can provide them with supplemental information or clarify instructions that were given to them at the time of face-to-face office visit. This way, they will get to know what exactly they need to do with the new medical device. Ask them questions regarding the instructions that have been given and clear their doubts if they have any.
- Encourage patients to do things that are best for their health
A majority of patients fails to make the healthy choices that they need to make in order to keep diseases at bay. Sometimes, all they need is a little motivation to do so. People already know how injurious smoking is for health, but they still choose to do so. It is not always easy to do what is healthy. If the patients get the support and motivation from their doctors, then it becomes easier for them to adopt healthy habits.
- Remind patients to maintain their health
Forgetfulness of patients can act as a barrier to their good health. You can send reminder messages to the patients so that they can overcome forgetfulness. The reminders can be sent to remind to perform daily tasks such as testing blood sugar or to encourage periodic preventive actions such as getting a vaccination.
Targeted messages on smartphones are used by health plans and health systems in order to reach populations who are difficult to reach such as the minorities, homeless, migrant workers and AIDS/HIV populations. Healthcare systems are personalizing messages to these certain groups of people so that they get to build a good rapport and enhance the engagement with the local healthcare providers.
So, why are healthcare providers making use of mHealth interventions?
- Provide real-time feedback as well as contact
- Reach a large number of people at a low price
- They can be personalized according to the needs of the patients
- They can send population health messages anytime and as frequent as they want
- Provides a reminder to patients about when they should go for their healthcare appointments
- Overcome the barriers of social as well as physical isolation
- Interaction can be done with corresponding messages depending on earlier responses
- It represents a preferable mode of communication
There has been a conference, the focus of which was making use of personal mHealth data for population health programs. Here, the idea was that programs can not only gather, but also analyze a large amount of data from individuals in order to spot trends as well as send information out to bigger groups of people. Earlier in the public health campaigns, the same formula had been used. Programs such as Text4Baby and Text2Quit were made. These programs identified the targeted population, developed messages and sent them through email or text.
Today, because of the huge amount of data that is being collected by mHealth devices, those programs are becoming more productive as well as effective. The devices include not only the sensor-embedded smartphones, but also the artificial intelligence platforms that have the ability to gather a huge amount of spotting trends as well as data. In order to create an effective engagement with patients using mHealth, healthcare providers may first let them know about all the mHealth options that are available. This is because different people have different choices. While some patients may want to stay in touch through text messages, there may be others who want to receive emails. Also, there may be others who would like phone calls. Once you know their preferences, all you have to do is create a plan that best suits their health needs.