The Impact of mHealth Technology on American Healthcare

Author: Lake Effects Blog

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The US Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius referred to mHealth in 2011 as “the biggest technology breakthrough of our time”.  The emergence and evolution of mHealth applications and the potential they have to empower Americans to take an active and invested role in their own personal health management is critical to reducing the impact on the already burgeoned healthcare system.

If technology can make Americans more aware of their health conditions and be proactive in their ability to make lifestyle and habit changes for better health outcomes, it would be impossible to put a finite value on mHealth applications in terms of the amount of money that it could save the US Healthcare System.

The smart phone and the prevalence of mobile technology makes it possible to use both clinical and lifestyle applications to help educate and change health behaviours.   Virtually everyone owns a smart phone and had adopted the habit of using mobile applications on a daily basis to organize their time, keep in touch with family, friends and the workplace.

According to Research2Guidance.com there are approximately 100,000 mobile health applications available in 62 different app stores around the world.  The report indicated that the top ten mobile health applications generate more than 4 million downloads per day.

How Americans Are Using mHealth Applications

Research conducted in 2013 by Susannah Fox for PEW Research Internet Project found:

  • 60% of U.S. adults indicated that they monitor their weight, diet and exercise using mobile applications
  • 33% of U.S. adults track specific clinical symptoms such as blood glucose, headaches, insomnia and sleep patterns, blood pressure and chronic pain using mHealth apps.
  • 12% of U.S. adults track health indicators using mobile applications on behalf of a family member or friend that they care for.
  • 7 out of 10 Americans track at least one health indicator using mHealth applications.

With the extensive adoption rate and consumer interest in mobile health applications, it is easy to understand why the health administration would be motivated to utilize the cultural trend in an attempt to further punctuate the importance of patient self-management in the United States.   The potential for cost savings to the health care system is critical, at a time when both aging population and national economics have placed a significant strain on American Health care.

Health Care Spending in the USA (2013)

  • $2.8 trillion in total U.S. health expenditures in 2013.
  • $2.2 trillion was spent on patient health care (the balance on administration and research and development programs).
  • Senior citizens account for 36% of total healthcare costs or $1.01 trillion.
  • 18% of the GDP is spent annually on healthcare in the U.S.  This is higher than 9.3% which is the average among all other industrialized nations.
  • 40% of the U.S. healthcare budget is spent on Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Consumers finance approximately $300 billion dollars annually in personal health costs.
Source: Web July 22, 2014 ‘The US Health Crises’ RockWeb.com

 

The FDA regulates mHealth apps that perform patient specific analysis and/or patient specific diagnosis or treatment recommendations in an effort to ensure that any application that could cause misinformation leading to a health risk is moderated.   Mobile health apps that help to educate, reinforce positive dietary or exercise habits, or those that simply record lifestyle or health data to be exported and shared with a physician are encouraged, as they empower the user to develop a more informed attitude toward their own personal health management.

New mHealth products are moving beyond the mobile phone to wearable technology, including watches or bands that report diagnostics throughout the day as well as clothing which can monitor certain conditions and report the information directly to a supervising physician.  With the implementation of Electronic Health Information Exchange (HIE) by Regional Health Information Organizations (RHIOs) nationwide, the empowered American patient is evolving to become one that takes an invested personal health management role.

With mHealth, patients are given the tools to assist health care providers in monitoring and avoiding health complications by being aware of symptoms, and making lifestyle changes that support good health.  In turn this evolution will help to ease the burden on the health care system with better and more concise patient care and avoidance of more serious (and expensive) health crises.

What are your thoughts about mHealth and wearable health technology?  Share with us by leaving your comment below.

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