It’s time to tackle the proverbial elephant in the room –lifestyle change.
When I was doing my field work in graduate school, I shadowed a pathologist at a community hospital. He had started his career in primary care, but he eventually became so disenchanted with treating the same conditions and begging patients to make lifestyle changes to avoid these conditions, that he changed tracks to focus indirectly on patient care by diagnosing from the lab rather than the bedside.
And I can understand his frustration. I even frustrate myself, when I fall into ruts of not going to the gym or eating too many things I know aren’t good for me. Theoretically, I’m only half way through my predicted lifespan, so it’s important that I do what’s within my control now, to improve my odds of being healthy for the second half of my life.
Lucky for me, and future generations, we have something that didn’t even exist 10 years ago –mobile health. While advances in medical devices revolutionized our options for care once we had an illness or injury, mobile health is revolutionizing our access to information and tools for disease management and even prevention of illness and injury.
According to the results of a physician survey conducted by eClinicalWorks, more than ninety percent of respondents believe that mHealth apps have the potential to improve patient outcomes, and eighty-nine percent indicated that they would recommend an app to a patient in the future.
Mobile health technology has been an innovative disruption in the healthcare marketplace, with applications for clinicians as well as consumers. Consider the following statistics from a variety of sources, cited in articles posted by EHR Intelligence:
- There are nearly 100,000 health apps currently available in the market
- Within the next 5 years, mHealth is anticipated to have 1.7 billion users
- Over the next 10 years, mHealth tools are projected to save more than $500 billion in productivity, travel, and administrative costs
So, what does this mean for healthcare providers and marketers?
1. mHealth can increase patient engagement.
If we want patients to be part of the solution in healthcare, we need to engage them through more real-time communication and feedback about their health. While Facebook and on-line support communities play a part in patient engagement, mHealth bolsters it even further by providing data, information and feedback to patients. Many mHealth apps are built on algorithms that monitor users’ progress against a goal or care plan, and some even allow caregivers to co-monitor or integrate the data directly into the patient’s electronic health record. Patient health apps result in greater accountability and motivation by the user, even if just because of the greenhouse effect.
2. mHealth can extend your brand.
AT&T ForHealthSM has predicted a shift from generic apps to sponsored apps as one of its top 5 IT trends in 2013. Data has shown that while a number of consumers download general health apps, utilization of the app is limited. Studies on “sponsored” apps, on the other hand, indicate a higher level of sustained engagement and behavior change, resulting in improved health. Hospitals and physicians would benefit from exploring collaborations with mHealth vendors to identify apps for specific patient populations, such as diabetes, where you have a clinician champion. Work with you IT team to ensure security and privacy, and pilot it with a small group of patients and caregivers. If it’s successful, brand the app and promote it. If it’s not successful, pick another one and try again.
3. mHealth can improve health and optimize reimbursement.
And they said that marketing was only a cost center. Here’s your opportunity to show them that marketing can actually contribute to improving patient health and the bottom line! Mobile health apps can serve as an extension of the care team, by providing alerts and other tools to keep patients on track for their optimal health. With the shift to more risk-based reimbursement models, keeping patients healthier will be what optimizes revenue rather than keeping waiting rooms full.
And if that isn’t enough to convince you to explore mHealth as part of your healthcare marketing strategy, maybe I can appeal to your competitive nature: the Department of Veterans Affairs already has in development over 20 health apps, many of which are planned for testing and launch in 2013.
Have you launched a health care app yet? If not, what do you think your first app might be?