With all these new terms like “mHealth” and “digital health” flying around, it’s sometimes hard to keep up. Chances are you’ve heard of mobile health solutions (also known as mHealth) from your patients or other healthcare providers. You might even use a few yourself.
But what exactly does the mHealth field encompass? What mHealth tools are available and are they worth using within your practice? Where do you start?
mHealth encompasses a wide range of apps that help patients track, engage in, or analyze their health via their mobile devices (smartphones,tablets, etc). According to a recent survey by Research Now Group, nearly half of healthcare professionals plan to integrate mobile apps into their practices in the next five years. Yet, only 16% already use apps with their patients. That means many providers will be delving into the mHealth field in the coming years and experimenting with what works for their practices.
Here’s a quick overview on the advantages of using mHealth, a few great tools to check out, and the top steps for getting started.
How mHealth Can Help
With new technology comes new opportunities! mHealth has several unique benefits that are changing the landscape of modern day healthcare.
More Information About Patients’ Health. Limited to in-person patient appointments and the occasional phone check-in, you can’t always stay up-to-date on your patients’ health, and you might even be missing important warning signs. mHealth solutions allow patients to track their health conditions throughout the day and share that data with their physician. A mHealth telemedicine app could also make it easier for you to do quick, virtual check-ins with patients who need closer monitoring.
People tend to have their smartphones and/or other mobile devices around them on a regular basis. Therefore, mHealth apps can offer a more complete, detailed picture of a patient’s health outside of an examination at the doctor’s office. According to the Research Now Group survey, about 86% of healthcare professionals say this is a major benefit of mHealth.
Increased Patient Engagement. Patients may not always find it easy to follow-up, or remember the doctor’s orders at all times of day. A mHealth tool can help remind patients to monitor aspects of their health, like diet, weight, blood pressure, sleep, and medication. About 72% of healthcare professionals agree mobile apps empower patients to claim responsibility for their own health. Because these apps engage patients in today’s connected world, they make it easier—and sometimes even more fun—to manage patients’ health.
More Efficient Patient Treatment. About half of healthcare professionals believe mHealth can make patient treatment more efficient. With more information, patient monitoring, and patient engagement, physicians can make better, more cost-efficient recommendations for patient treatment.
Improved Relationships With Patients. 46% of your colleagues agree that mHealth can improve your relationships with your patients. Mobile health apps can increase your accessibility and allow patients to reach out with quick questions. The more open communication you have with your patients, the stronger your doctor-patient relationship is likely to be.
Improved Quality of Life. The Research Now Group survey found that a whopping 96% of mHealth users believe that these apps will improve their quality of life. That’s almost everybody!
With all of the benefits for both patients and physicians shown above, that number should come as no surprise. Integrating mHealth into your practice may be extra work, but these undeniable benefits could ensure better outcomes for both you and your patients.
Ok, so by now you might be convinced that mHealth is worth a try. But where do you start?
How to Get Started
- Assess your patient needs. Have certain patients been asking you for mHealth recommendations? Do you have lots of patients with diabetes who need help managing diet, exercise, or medications? Are you struggling to communicate with your patients or get those who need appointments in the door? Decide where there’s room for improvement and how mHealth solutions could best benefit your practice. If you’re unsure where to start, why not ask your patients?
- Research the best mHealth options. As you start to research mHealth apps, iMedicalApps.com is a great place to start for the top, clinically-reviewed apps. Do your research before suggesting any apps to your patients to ensure they’re high-quality.
Here are a few of our suggestions:
- Weight/diet/fitness management (Ex.: FitBit, Apple Healthkit)
- Medication/treatment management (Ex.: Family Drug Guide, MediSafe)
- Chronic diseases, such as diabetes or high blood pressure (Ex.: Glucose Buddy, Tensio)
- Physician – patient communication (. eVisit, CheckedUp)
- Try out 1 or 2. Start out small, and choose only one or two apps that you think will make a difference in your practice. Recommend them to patients as part of their treatment plan, and see how they work.
- Ask for feedback. The next time you check in with those patients, ask them for feedback. Do they like the app? Do they use it consistently? Is it helping them manage their health? Get a first-hand account of whether the app is making a difference.
- Become an mHealth aficionado. Once you’ve successfully “piloted” one or two apps, try researching and recommending a few more mHealth solutions to patients. Don’t go overboard, but don’t limit yourself if you think adding more mHealth tools could make an impact on your patients’ treatment and quality of life.
Mobile health doesn’t have to be confusing or time-consuming to implement, and it can offer more benefits for your patients and practice than you may have realized. Start small and integrate an app or two where they are most needed to discover how mHealth can best serve you and your patients in the digital age.