FAQ – Why mobile device and why mHealth?

  May 16, 2013 8:33:31 AM

mHealth or mobile device driven healthcare delivery is slated as the next big wave amongst all the major stakeholders in the Healthcare ecosystem – Providers, Payers, Pharma and Lifesciences organizations. The typical mHealth benefits mentioned in various blogs, articles are: "Anytime Anywhere Access to Health Information", "Physicians and nurses are always on the move and hence mobility", "Most individuals have smartphones today and hence patient engagement can be greatly improved", etc. These are all very valid and compelling reasons for the surge in mHealth. However, in our exchanges with various individuals in the health system (physicians, nurses, researchers, business development personnel, etc), we are frequently asked questions like - "Why mobile?", "We have Mac stations and kiosks for patients, why do we need support for iPads and iPhones?"

In augmentation to the typical mHealth benefits covered in various blogs and articles, listed below some scenarios that highlight benefits of mobility:

  • Space benefits: Lots of situations requires e-engaging with a patient at the hospital premises. For e.g. asking a patient to fill-in an online questionnaire at check-in. This could be done by having Mac or PC stations or even kiosks. A PC or Mac station will additionally require a desk and charging station. A kiosk will require a dedicated space allocated and usually these kiosks are quite bulky. Using mHealth solutions will definitely address any such space constraints.
  • Equipment cost benefits: A related benefit is the cost benefit to buying an iPad versus a Mac station or even a kiosk. This becomes a noticeable gain when the one would consider the number of such devices required in a large hospital like Mayo or Cleveland clinic.
  • Device sanitization: Hospitals are places where one is most susceptible to an infection. Sanitizing a rack of iPads and other mobile devices is definitely an easier wipe down task compared to kiosks or Mac stations. Infact, an innovative automated sanitizer rack could be incorporated for mobile devices to make the task more effective.

There are also some clear mobility benefits for payers. One such specific scenario that we have come across is related to payers gathering data for the "Risk Adjustment Program" under PPACA. In this program, patients with pre-existing conditions who were previously not eligible for an insurance coverage cannot now be denied insurance coverage. This requires payers to compute risk scores for such enrollments. Patients with pre-existing conditions might increase their costs and will be compensated by the government via the adjustment program. The payers are now engaged in large amounts of data collection. All required data might not be available through claim information. Such missing pieces of data will require staff from payers to visit the respective physician practices. Payer staff might be required to enter data while standing and may not always have access to a charging point. Ultrabooks with fast power-up and long battery life are prohibitively expensive considering the rather not so computationally intensive task at a hand. Mobile tablets become a greatly utility in this scenario. An iPad comes out of standby almost instantaneously coupled with a long active battery life. An iPad-mini which has a form-factor close to a paper-notebook is light and easy to carry around. Another benefit is that most tablets today come with built-in 3G capability. So now data can be synchronized with a remote server even when there is no WIFI coverage.

Contrary to many people who feel the move to mobile health may be simply a fad, we at Sasken believe it will become the new norm in the evolving healthcare ecosystem.

Authored by: Arun Venkataraman

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