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Healthcare has been traditionally known to be one of the verticals that are late to adopting the latest technology and innovations. The traditional business model of healthcare is similar to the airline industry which is to keep the hospitals beds occupied similar to selling as many seats as possible on the plane. We are moving towards an era where the business model of healthcare is shifting towards keeping the potential patients/ consumers out of the hospital by promoting wellness and prevention. I like to refer to patients as consumers because healthcare will need to operate with a retail mentality in the future. Consumers are getting smarter, they have access to more information than before and we are seeing a shift and disruption where a lot of big retail chains (Walgreen, CVS) are providing healthcare as part of their business model. In the U.S. healthcare accounts for 17.9 percent of the GDP which is almost double when compared to the countries in Europe and other developed nations. The opportunity to provide high quality care at a lower cost is the desired outcome and the industry can lower the cost with technology utilization.
"Healthcare is making strides towards a mobile world with about 100,000 mhealth apps on the market currently and we are starting to see the embracement of mobile by both the consumer and provider"
We are moving into an era of “mobile first” and some are moving towards “mobile only” where the smartphones and tablets have shifted our lives tremendously. We now have the ability to perform different tasks from all industry verticals on our mobile devices:
• Banking and financial transactions
• Watch the latest movie/TV show and listen to the latest music hits
• Travel accommodation and bookings
What about healthcare? Healthcare is making strides towards a mobile world with about 100,000 mhealth apps on the market currently and we are starting to see the embracement of mobile by both the consumer and provider. Social is making its way with peer groups among patients and even the physicians. Last big important element is leveraging Big Data so that the industry can move to predictive clinical modeling and predictive outcomes so that both the patient and physician can play a proactive role in monitoring the health outcome.
Consumers are now demanding the same features of their mobile habits to deal with their doctors, hospitals, and insurance company. The majority of U.S. consumers are more comfortable with consultation over a mobile device, I would prefer it personally to save the trip along with the potential cost saving. We are starting to see a lot of companies that are providing virtual care from the retail world. Consumers want to have the personalized care and the increase in mobile adoption allows consumers the ability to perform selfservice functions such as appointment scheduling/cancellation, self-administer tests, bill payment, video consultation and records access. There will also be an increase in the usage of sensors and mobile apps for the consumers to proactively monitor their health. The most popular doctors currently are “Dr.Google” and “WebMD” which is also leading to an increase in the social adoption in healthcare where patients utilize peer groups for connections with other similar patients who share the same condition or experience. Big data and analytics will be critical for population management and wellness with the goal of providing the patients the ability to take a proactive approach in managing their health.
Physicians are accustomed to being on call 24x7 with usage of traditional call center, pagers, and now in the U.S. about 85 percent of U.S. physicians own or use a smartphone professionally. Mobile and mHealth allows the physician to have access anywhere anytime to information related their patients and medical information. Mobile video capability allows basic telehealth functionality between the patient and physician for monitoring and proactive treatments for the patients. We are now moving towards an era where we will have more than enough data and the data will be a key component of proactive treatment and prevention. This will be a key driver as we move towards data driven outcome in medicine.
Here is the ideal scenario of the mhealth ecosystem. We have a diabetic patient who came in to see the doctor and was informed that they should be on a low calorie and low sodium diet. The patient leaves with the prescription medication and a medical device sensor that can monitor their vitals. On a routine basis the patient performs a self-assessment using the wearable device and the devices is connected to the patient’s smartphone so that the vitals can be transmitted to the physician for review if needed. One day while driving home the patient could not resist making a stop at the drive through at a fast food chain. The patient has their location active on the smartphone and also makes a post on their social media channels. Instantly the patients gets an alert on their mobile device recommending the low calorie diet restriction and the patient is forced to make a decision.
The integration of mobile, social, big data, and cloud technology makes this scenario a reality. Healthcare traditionally has been one of the slowest adopting verticals to new technology but it is due for a big disruption as we see a lot of money being poured into the healthcare vertical from startups and venture capitals. Change will occur quickly and the traditional healthcare providers do not have time on their side as we see the big retail giants (CVS, Walgreen, etc) make a play in the market to provide personalized consumer centric care as needed similar to the scenario provided. Mhealth can be the main driver to the global healthcare challenge of increasing care access while keeping the cost low while we strive to keep the population healthier. The goal of proactive monitoring and decision making on healthcare is the future and mHealth will play a key role in the delivery model.