mHealth’s value to healthcare—patient engagement
Ebola. No matter what I do – turn on my TV, open my web browser to the Google News homepage, or even walk down the streets – the Ebola conversation is everywhere. As a healthcare communications professional, I am fascinated by the many ways the deadly disease is being discussed. From the humorous(?) GIF that states “more Americans have been married to Kim Kardashian than have died from Ebola” to the tragic news stories about the deaths of Ebola victims worldwide, the conversation has gone in many directions. One conversation that several of our clients can relate to is the role mHealth has played in the prevention and care for Ebola.
Shortly after the World Health Organization declared Nigeria free of Ebola on October 20, 2014, Nigerian Minister of Communication Technology Omobola Johnson said an Android “phone app helped in reducing reporting times of infections by 75 percent.” While mHealth is a relatively new topic in the healthcare industry, public health agencies and government officials are clearly recognizing its importance and the potential it brings.
Healthcare providers and other organizations must recognize the full potential of mHealth as well. While Ebola is a very rare disease, affecting few Americans, there are other major problems affecting our country’s health today. More than two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, cigarette smoking is still the cause of one in every five deaths in the country, and more than 75 percent of healthcare expenditures are for individuals with chronic conditions that could have been prevented with lifestyle changes.
Many U.S. citizens are interested in living a healthier life – and are willing to do so through mHealth. There are currently more than 100,000 health and fitness apps available. A recent study by mobile engagement provider Mobiquity found that 70 percent of U.S. consumers are using these apps on a daily basis, but 60 percent of them do not share this data with physicians. This disconnect between patient and provider prevents us from recognizing the full potential of mHealth. Providers have the opportunity to leverage mHealth to further engage patients in their own healthcare, drive behavior change and improve overall outcomes.
So how can organizations — providers, payers, employers or vendors — ensure they are engaging patients, members, employees or consumers in the most effective way possible using mHealth?
1.Make it easy. To reap the benefits of mHealth, it must be simple and convenient for patients to engage in their health using their mobile phones. As a patient and consumer, I want to be able to engage with my doctor the same way I interact with other businesses in my life. I can buy clothes, sign up for gym classes and pay my bills with a mobile app, and I should be able to make a doctor’s appointment, refill prescriptions or share my personal health data just as easily. The simpler the process, the more likely it is to become routine.
2. Make it outcomes-based. Everyone likes a little competition, so why not “gamify” healthcare? By challenging patients or consumers to engage in these health and fitness apps and providing incentives or rewards for achieving certain goals or meeting milestones, they are more likely to stay engaged longer.
3. Make it secure. One major concern of patients is that of security. By ensuring each individual’s private medical data stays private, he or she is more likely to engage in mHealth.
mHealth has been recognized in recent global news for the potential it offers the healthcare industry. Tell us – how is your organization leveraging mHealth to engage patients and promote better outcomes?