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  • mattheelan

Article I wrote for The Healthcare Insights Magazine related to mHealth.

Back in October 2020, I was invited to speak at a healthcare technology summit. The speaker before me was a gentleman who was the Vice President of Products for a large multinational Fortune 500 technology company that specializes in GPS and wearable technology for different markets such as aviation, marine, outdoor, and fitness markets. Let’s say his name is Mark. During Mark’s speech, he made a very interesting disclosure. He said that they have been involved in confidential discussions with some of the largest insurers in the country. The purpose of those conversations was simple – determine what devices and mobile applications they could distribute to members to track and improve their health. He explained that the concept was once a consumer signs up for new health insurance at work, then he/she would select which plans they want to enroll in. One plan option would be to sign up for the “Plan+.” As a part of your new member benefits for “Plan+”, the insurance company sends you a box of devices and instructions for the corresponding mobile apps. By agreeing to track and report to the insurance company specific health metrics, you would receive a discount on your health insurance. Here is what might be in the box: a. Bluetooth scale for weight b. Blood pressure cuff with app c. Food intake app d. Heart rate monitoring device and app As a concept, we already do this in the car insurance business. All the car insurance companies have these devices (Nationwide Safe Driver, Allstate Drivewise,) that you install in your car. The longer you drive without exceeding the speed limit or engaging in dangerous driving behaviors, the more you will receive a discounted rate on your insurance. As a footnote, I am so glad they did not have this feature when I was 16 because they would have discovered that on Friday nights, I jumped hills with my first car… which was a sweet 1978 Chrysler Cordoba. I digress. After listening to Mark describe this scenario, I did not know what to think. A few months later we got a call from a physician who happened to be a cardiologist, who was reaching out to us because of our background in building mHealth apps and some clinical research platforms. He wanted to know if we could help him build a remote patient monitoring system to manage his patient population that had pacemakers and would be a mobile health application that he and his staff would use. The purpose of the entire program was to be able to identify those individuals that were at a higher risk because they had older pacemakers. This system was going to be used by this particular cardiologist to segment and prioritize the individuals that he wanted to proactively replace their pacemakers. This, to me, highlights the power of mHealth. The growth and application of mHealth. There are presently over 400,000 mHealth apps available in the app store. The global mHealth market is estimated to reach $289.4 billion by 2025. The US market was valued at $45.7 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow 17.6% between 2021-2028. Here are some reasons for the growth:

  1. Increased penetration of smartphones and internet connectivity. Some estimate that, as of 2018, smartphone penetration globally was at 57% and is expected to reach 77% by 2025.

  2. Increased prevalence of chronic disease and improving 3G, and 4G LTE networks that enable video calling and data transfer services.

  3. Increased demand for preventive healthcare.

  4. Healthcare market mentality shift to placing customer at the center of the organization or experience.

  5. Increased demand from consumers (patient), physicians and other healthcare facilities.

The term mHealth is sometimes used within the healthcare marketplace interchangeably, based on the use case and application. As an example, mHealth can be used in conjunction with apps used in medical research to collect data from study participants, while it can also be defined as those apps that consumers use for health/wellness/fitness/lifestyle. For the purposes of this article, we breakdown mobile healthcare technologies into these 4 categories:

  1. Hospital setting

  2. Non-Hospital setting (Primary practice, Groups, Researchers)

  3. Healthcare devices and their associated apps

  4. Consumer-facing apps for health/wellness/fitness/lifestyle

We will not be covering consumer-facing healthcare apps since this topic has been covered widely.

The survey and the numbers.

Here are some numbers courtesy of a survey conducted by Deloitte:

  • Between 2012-2020 consumers' use of mobile technology for health/fitness has soared from 17% to nearly 42% and monitoring health issues from 15% to 28%.

  • Among individuals who track their health, 77% say it changes their behavior a great deal/moderate amount. Younger generations (Gen Z and millennials) are much more likely to say it changes their behavior.

  • Between 2018-2020 the percentage of consumers willing to share health data captured via a mobile device went from 50% to 63%.

  • As a result of COVID, more consumers are willing to share personal health information collected via a mobile device or app from 65% Pre-COVID to 71% since COVID.

Areas and types of use for mHealth applications

Hospitals. The use of mHealth apps by physicians and healthcare professionals within the hospital setting can be used for such things as:

  • Reading and reviewing critical medical news updates related to treatments and procedures.

  • Read and review updates from experts with specific commentary on diseases

  • Utilize medical calculators

  • Validate drug interaction via a Drug Interaction Checker

  • Validate medication via a Pill Identifier

  • Step-by-Step procedural videos

  • Reading and reviewing clinical trial news and data

  • Review and search ICD-9 codes

  • Examine 3D animations of the different body systems

  • Writing and renewing prescriptions

  • Read and review an array of modalities such as CT, MRI, PET, Ultrasound and X-rays.

  • Medication adherence in transplant patients

Here are some companies to check out: Epocrates, Medscape, 3D4Medical, AHRQ ePSS, Mobile MIM, PGHDConnect, emocha

Research. Within the medical research field, researchers utilize a wide array of mHealth apps to facilitate the work of conducting a clinical trial or study. These apps can have dual purposes such as being used by consumers for overall health/wellness but then within a clinical study used as a tool to collect data and then analyze study data. Here are some ways that researchers use these tools:

  • Data capture of food intake.

  • Reporting of symptoms and preventative measures taken during study period.

  • Gamification to help kids living with ADHD, anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and other mental health concerns.

  • Medication adherence

  • Digital therapeutic to treat treatment-resistant fibromyalgia

Here are some companies to check out:

T1-Dexi, Google Health Studies, Verily, emocha Health, Applied VR.

Non-Hospitals (Physician practices, Physician groups) Here are some ways that physicians use these tools:

  • Providing remote healthcare via telehealth

  • Assess different stages of COPD

  • Mobile EMR and Practice management for patient records which includes medication, visit history, medical reports, testing, and screening results.

  • Clinical decision support

  • Consult a large database of experts to confirm symptoms to diagnoses.

  • PTSD coaching to help patients learn and manage symptoms.

Here are some companies to check out: Teladoc, Gold COPD, Dr. Pad, UpToDate, Isabel Pro, PEPID, VA Mobile Apps

Healthcare Devices/Wearables with an associated app utilized in either a hospital or research setting:

  • Bluetooth-enabled device sites atop insulin pen with the app to track injections (😀 We built this.)

  • Study Watch collects biometric health information such as ECG, heart rate, electrodermal activity, and inertial movements.

  • Blood pressure monitor and app

  • Medical grade EKG device with Kardia app.

  • Smartphone with health-specific apps

Here are some companies to check out:

illumisoft, BioCorp/Mallya, Verily, Alivecor, Quardioarm, Apple iOS Health Kit.

Overall Benefits of mHealth

  1. Decreasing hospital costs.

  2. Reducing the spread of disease.

  3. Improves communication and coordination

  4. Reducing human error through electronic record-keeping and real-time data collection.

  5. Enabling physicians to be more efficient and effective.

  6. Enhancing the ability of physicians and medical professionals to learn faster.

  7. Ability to more accurately diagnose, treat and manage chronic diseases more easily.

  8. A useful tool to help medical researchers conduct clinical studies.

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