Ways Mobile Apps Will Transform Healthcare

Earlier this year Kaiser Permanente leapfrogged the industry when it made its entire electronic health care system – the most extensive electronic medical record offering in the world – available to its 9 million members via an Android app. The country’s largest medical organization quickly announced that the app had garnered more than 95,000 downloads. Kaiser patients now make appointments, check lab tests, order medicines, and communicate with their physicians from the palm of their hands. CEO George Halvorson asserted that accessing health information on mobile devices is becoming the “new norm.”

The numbers support Halvorson’s prediction. Global sales of smartphones are expected to hit 1.5 billion units by 2016. Ten years from now everyone from teens to the elderly will be carrying a smartphone, and these mobile devices will be exponentially smarter than they are today. In addition to being location aware, the smartphone of the future will be situationally and contextually aware. This will allow it to present information directly to you when you need it, revolutionizing the way patients are engaged by the healthcare system.

These new capabilities coupled with the explosive growth in digital health apps – the market for mobile health apps is expected to quadruple to $400 million by 2016, according to ABI Research – promise to radically change the way health care is delivered and accessed. Doctors won’t go away, but they will have a lot more information about you and your health, and it will stream in from more sources than ever before. For healthcare delivery, we’re rapidly moving from a world of inbound patients to a world of inbound data. The impact of this shift on the healthcare system and how consumers use and act on health information should not be underestimated.

Here are five ways digital apps and smartphones will transform healthcare:

  • Improved access to care:

In a digital age, the requirement for patients and doctors to be in the same location is eliminated. Patients suffering from chronic diseases who live in rural areas or otherwise have limited access to doctors will be able to “visit” with primary care physicians or specialists located in the next major city or a half a world away. Increasingly, the patient will be in his or her home. Instead of having the government or insurance companies dictate that a visit must be in person, which may be either unnecessary or dangerous (for frail elderly patients), patients and physicians will decide together when a visit is best done live and when healthcare services can be delivered virtually.

  •  Improved patient engagement:

Many aspects of healthcare discourage patient engagement – long lines, complexity, lack of transparency of cost and quality. Much of this is unnecessary. Why should accessing healthcare require a painstaking wait in the physician’s office? You could easily be notified via text that your physician is running late. Apps can also eliminate complexity. Imagine you are using a medication reminder app that knows how many pills you have taken and when you will take them next. It “knows” you are running low on pills and it automatically asks whether you want to pick up your prescription at the nearest Walgreen’s (because it “knows” your location and where your prescription is on file) or would prefer it mailed to your home. One simple answer and it automatically places the prescription for your chosen delivery method and charges your HSA.

  • New provider business models:

The explosion of inbound data from sensors and devices will create new opportunities for healthcare professionals. Today’s healthcare services and business models are ill-suited to a system dominated by an influx of patient data. Expect the need to manage inbound data to create a new set of companies focused on data management. Large call centers will house nurses, doctors, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals who watch, manage and respond to this inbound data. In addition, digital health apps will allow providers to effectively manage and coordinate patient care in a complex environment. This will be critical as the government and insurance companies increasingly “bundle” payments and determine other ways to shift risk to providers.

  •  Reduced Medicare Fraud:

My experience is that Medicare is terrified of an explosion of costs that could result from digital interactions, primarily due to the increased patient access to care. However, the more impactful consequence of digital health will be in reducing fraud, currently estimated to drain about $60 billion annually from Medicare. One simple reason is that digital apps have an amazing ability to track people and transactions in space and time. In the future, digital apps will allow Medicare to correlate claims data with location, and time data from the digital health apps to look for fraud. Imagine visiting a pharmacy – one of the most common locations for Medicare fraud – scanning in your Medicare card and conducting your purchase digitally. An app would allow Medicare to instantly trace that transaction. Hotspots of activity could be identified and investigated in real-time rather than months after the money is in the criminal’s offshore bank account.

  • Improved Patient Safety:

Digital apps will make health care safer by giving patients tools to manage their own health. Today, patients leave the hospital with a stack of papers and very little memory of what they’re supposed to do when they arrive home. Imagine if all the information you needed for a safe and healthy recovery were handed to you on an app. You could tend to the most urgent tasks and the one or two items most important to remember – and the app would take care of the rest. Apps can remind you to take pills, monitor side effects and transfer the knowledge to your provider. This would be a huge advance for patient safety.

In the future, everything that can be done digitally will be done digitally. Digital health apps will schedule appointments, tell you the doctor is running late, help monitor medications’ side effects, and help you follow your care plan accurately. These changes will engage patients with their health and healthcare in new ways. It will also radically reform healthcare delivery.

Derek Newell is CEO of Jiff, which provides a HIPAA-compliant social network and apps platform for healthcare.

Ref: Forbes

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Ref: Ideadigezt

FrontlineSMS – Healthcare Mobile App

FrontlineSMS:Medic was preceded by two independent projects, Mobiles in Malawi and MobilizeMRS. Josh Nesbit initiated Mobiles in Malawi in the summer of 2007, working at a rural Malawian hospital that serves 250,000 patients spread 100 miles in every direction. To reach remote patients, the hospital trained volunteer community health workers (CHWs) like Dickson Mtanga, a subsistence farmer. Dickson had to walk 35 miles to submit hand-written reports on 25 HIV-positive patients in his community. The hospital needed a simple means of communication, and in the summer of 2008 Josh returned to the hospital with mobile phones and a laptop running FrontlineSMS to provide it.

MobilizeMRS was born with a focus on electronic medical records, and the notion that the technology could be extended to engage CHWs in structured data collection. Isaac Holeman discovered Mobiles in Malawi and contacted Josh online, and in late 2008 theydecided to join forces. Isaac brought the key characteristics of MobilizeMRS with him – a commitment to extending OpenMRS, the initiative to formalize their projects as a venture, insistence that the venture should have a distinct brand and leadership authority, and commitment to developing innovative software.

In February of 2009, Josh, Isaac, and Nadim Mahmud (a Stanford medical student) co-founded FrontlineSMS:Medic. The mission was to help health workers communicate, coordinate patient care, and provide diagnostics using low-cost, appropriate technology.

Impact

In six months, the pilot in Malawi using FrontlineSMS saved hospital staff 1200 hours of follow-up time and over $3,000 in motorbike fuel. Over 100 patients started tuberculosis treatment after their symptoms were noticed by CHWs and reported by text message. The SMS network brought the Home-Based Care unit to the homes of 130 patients who would not have otherwise received care, and texting saved 21 antiretroviral therapy (ART) monitors 900 hours of travel time, eliminating the need to hand deliver paper reports. You can read more about this pilot in the Journal of Technology and Health Care publication.

After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Josh reached out to FrontlineSMS users on the ground and connected with mobile operators. Soon after, FrontlineSMS:Medic helped coordinate The 4636 Project, an effort to create an emergency communications channel. Working with the Office of Innovation at the US Department of State, technology providers, Digicel, and Voila, a system was created to process text messages expressing urgent needs from the ground. Using crowd-sourced translation, categorization, and geo-tagging, reports were created for first responders within 5 minutes of receiving an SMS. Over 80,000 messages were received in the first five weeks of operation, focusing relief efforts for thousands of Haitians.

In less than one year, FrontlineSMS:Medic expanded from 75 to 1,500 end users linked to clinics serving approximately 3.5 million patients. Growing from the first pilot at a single hospital in Malawi, they established programs in 40% of Malawi’s district hospitals and implemented projects in nine other countries, including Honduras, Haiti, Uganda, Mali, Kenya, South Africa, Cameroon, India and Bangladesh.

A growing toolkit

In 2010, the FrontlineSMS:Medic team expanded and began creating new mobile tools. Software developers built on the FrontlineSMSplatform to create a lightweight patient records system, PatientView, and a text-based information collection module, TextForms.

Developed by volunteers in less than two days, the initial 4636 system combined a number of technology platforms. Most recently, FrontlineSMS:Medic developers worked on a messaging module for OpenMRS, a project that had been in the works since the MobilizeMRS days prior to FrontlineSMS:Medic. It became clear to the team that building upon and implementing various open source tools was the best way to serve users and achieve impact.

Next Steps

FrontlineSMS acts as a catalyst for new projects – incubating ideas, teams, and software for legal systems, education, financial services,radio, and other fields. The model replicates FrontlineSMS:Medic’s sector-specific approach and builds on a community of users innovating every day.

Medic Mobile continues FrontlineSMS:Medic’s team, values, and mission – using mobile tools to create connected, coordinated health systems that save more lives.

Ref: FrontLineSMS