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mHealth and telemedicine open new opportunity in healthcare

Four steps to accelerate your mHealth program success

Overview

According to Accenture research, mobile solutions can save the US more than $23 billion by targeting patients with chronic diseases, and an expected $2,000-$3,000 per year in savings per disease member.1 It’s clear: mobile health (mHealth) is here. Patients want it, and practitioners will need to deliver it.

The explosion of smart phones, laptops, tablets and other mobile devices has opened new opportunities in healthcare. mHealth allows healthcare to be delivered cheaper and faster (if done properly). But like any trend that involves technology, it’s moving fast and changing every day. Those who want to unlock the value should initiate mHealth programs now, or the benefits may pass right by.

1Based on Accenture analysis and aggregation of early trial data of monitoring solutions in the marketplace.

Background

Many organizations have not yet unleashed the value of mHealth. The numbers and experience show that mHealth can deliver abundant cost savings, but the benefits seem to extend beyond the bottom line, including components such as:

  • 15-20 percent fewer hospital days
  • 30 percent fewer emergency room visits
  • Corresponding improvement in patient outcomes
  • mHealth promotes efficient and timely action
  • With such quantifiable and qualitative benefits on the table, it’s time to start experimenting. Organizations can take steps now to help accelerate the uptake of mHealth tools and technologies.

Analysis

The value of mHealth continues to evolve—and grow. Stakeholders must begin to participate in mHealth now, making it part of every day business rather than admiring it as a pipe dream. As innovations in mHealth start to engage more and more consumers, they promise to transform how healthcare is perceived, as well as delivered. In the end, patients, doctors, payers, providers, pharmaceutical companies and even the government can all benefit from the rewards.

Recommendations

Accenture recommends four key steps to accelerate your mHealth program success:

  1. Drive adoption of mHealth tools by making it easier for patients and caregivers to use these devices.
    Treating patients and managing complex conditions is hard work, but mHealth tools can help make it easier for doctors and nurses to deliver high-quality care. No matter what the tool, it needs to be simple to use and built with the user’s perspective in mind—both the patient and the practitioner.

    Simplicity stems from seamlessly aligning with current processes. For example, French company Withings has developed Wi-Fi-enabled “scales” that measure weight and body fat—and also blood pressure—and transmit the information to smart phones, tablets or PCs. Users can keep convenient track of their own and their families’ fitness levels, and tweet the updates to their doctor. It’s as easy as stepping on a scale—an action familiar and easy for most people. This device takes an everyday action and, through technology, yields valuable data for caregivers.

  2. Automate portions of care management to manage by clinical exception.
    Remote monitoring tools are used to track the weight and heart rate of patients with congestive heart failure, or the glucose levels of those suffering from diabetes. When practitioners can monitor those with chronic conditions remotely, they can better manage by clinical exception. For example, by recording biometrics values and storing them in the cloud, doctors can capture an expansive data set and then run real-time analytics as data become available. This information helps doctors to spot patterns or abnormal biometric values, and to proactively address the issue identified.

    The value for providers is two-fold: they can effectively manage more patients without risking the compromise of clinical outcomes, and they are better equipped to react or intervene with patients who require care most urgently.

  3. Get ahead of legislation
    Right now, the US, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is involved in the approval of most mHealth devices or cloud services that could be viewed as a medical device. It can take years to get clearance to go to market for a medical device. And coupled with the need to implement compliance with data privacy and security protocols, such restrictions slow speed to market significantly.

This time lag may mean the technology is outdated before the device even reaches patients. For example, manufacturer Mobisante created an ultrasound wand that plugs into a smartphone, letting technicians see ultrasound images on the phone's screen. Obtaining the necessary approvals took more than eight months, and by the time it hit the shelves, it connected to an outdated smartphone.

The base station tablet is another example. This tablet used for monitoring chronic conditions, health and virtual consults passed through the legislative process before iPads and smartphone adoption skyrocketed. As a result, there was a potential missed opportunity to “synch up” with these ubiquitous devices.

When spearheading new mHealth initiatives, organizations should conduct due diligence to better ensure that devices or services are compliant with government regulations. It may be best to work with device developers or consultants who have experience going down the regulatory road.

  1. Accelerate program launch through strategic partnerships
    Jumpstarting an mHealth program may call for looking beyond traditional partners. Just as patients seek a specialist to treat a unique condition, consider partnering with a “specialist” who can help drive better outcomes for your organization. By collaborating with non-traditional players—cable companies, wireless providers, high-tech companies, and established software vendors—healthcare organizations can leverage the scale, technology know-how or product maturity of these partners to accelerate mHealth programs or offerings.

    For example, consult with an insurance provider when developing care programs for use with mobile applications and tools. Collaborate with an established mobile device company when exploring mHealth tools and team up with cloud service providers to learn the preferred ways to store data remotely. By embracing new IT sourcing models and working with partners who have been there done that, health organizations can achieve results better, cheaper and faster.

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