MOBILE TOOLS POSITIVELY INFLUENCING HEALTHCARE

Worldwide, a staggering five billion people or 74% of the world’s population are using mobile phones, with over 40% of them using smartphones. The clinical setting is no exception: according to Manhattan Research, 81% of physicians will have a smartphone by 2012. Tablets are following suit: the iPad alone is used by 30% of physicians one year after release, and Manhattan Research predicts that another 28% will purchase one in the next 6 months. Physician mobile technology adoption—sophisticated and secure email protocols coupled with the ability to access apps—can positively impact healthcare.

While mobile technology usage among physicians continues to flourish, so does the creation of apps. In fact, there are close to 400,000 apps available to Apple’s suite of products; meanwhile, the android app market is quickly catching up. There is no shortage of health-related apps or any slowing of their proliferation in the digital marketplace. As this channel of opportunity continues to grow, how do healthcare marketers leverage mobile technology and apps to capture audience’s attention and keep them engaged long term?

Mobile apps can significantly increase the flow of information between physicians and patients. Moving beyond fitness plans and diet advice, healthcare apps have the opportunity to enhance the physician-patient relationship, thus leading to better healthcare. Smartphone apps can serve as an excellent resource to provide medical professionals with reference information at point of care. According to a recent survey conducted by PwC, one out of three physicians makes decisions based on incomplete information; these decisions affect nearly 70% of a doctor’s patients. Mobile devices can bridge this gap by allowing doctors to access more information during the clinical encounter.

PATIENTS “NOT AT ALL” INFORMED

A recent survey commissioned by MedTera revealed that patient education is, in fact, in dire straits. MedTera asked 7,000 patients if they had the information needed to manage their illnesses when they left their doctors’ offices, and 54% of respondents answered “not at all.” When asked if they knew where to find online resources to manage their conditions, 81% answered “not at all.” An alarming 77% reported that they received no written information about their illnesses and/or medications from their doctors during their most recent visits. Physicians today are pressed to see as many patients as possible in the shortest possible time, and neglect to fully satisfy patients’ informational needs. Mobile technology allows both physicians and patients to access critical patient education within and outside the clinical setting to satisfy the previously mentioned patient needs.

Patients desire a supplementary source of medical guidance. In our survey, we asked patients to assess the value of additional health facts and medical advice. Regarding the importance of follow-ups and tests, 94% of respondents said they would find extra details “very much” or “extremely” valuable. Eighty-two percent gave the same response regarding recommended lifestyle changes; and 78% indicated that details on medications and potential side effects would be equally valuable. Most physicians want to meet recent patient demands, and 81% of them called for more apps related to their respective specialties. In general, 71% of physicians deemed smartphones essential to their practice.

INFORMATION AS MEDICINE

The right information at the point of care can both improve patient outcomes (through better patient education) and help streamline the medical professional’s workflow. Forty percent of physicians said they could eliminate 11% to 30% of office visits by using mobile devices. From email capability to remote monitoring of patients to communicating with caregivers, mobile technologies allow physicians to capitalize on their valuable time. Mobile technology can improve communication between medical professionals, their staffs and clinical laboratories. With the touch of a screen, a physician can download lab results on a smartphone at the time of the clinical encounter. Previous attempts to make health records mobile faced significant challenges, mostly due to smartphones’ limited screen sizes. The iPad’s innovative, reader-friendly features provide both physicians and patients with remote access to essential medical data.

The mobile health revolution is positioned to influence how patients manage their care, how physicians run their practices, and how healthcare stakeholders share information. A seismic shift, favoring positive healthcare outcomes, is on the horizon. Mobile apps for physicians can help improve efficiency for care management and improve communication between providers. From a patient perspective, mobile apps can deliver rich patient education, assist in monitoring care and support the patient-physician dialogue.

  • David Duplay

    Dave Duplay is the president and founder of MedTera, an integrated marketing solutions company dedicated to improving education, promotion and communications in the healthcare, life sciences and pharmaceutical industries

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