Smartphones and mobile technology have been disrupting the norm in most aspects of human existence for the past decade. One of the most defining changes is mobile healthcare, which is an extension of eHealth, the use of mobile technologies for medical purposes; examples would be wearable devices and monitors, smartphones and tablets, apps, and trackers.
Prior to the global pandemic, mobile healthcare technology was growing at a much slower pace, playing a supporting role to traditional medicine, and generally used for preventative medical purposes like fitness tracking and monitoring conditions like diabetes or blood pressure. However, in the past 18 months, the entire industry has been on a necessary fast track due to the COVID pandemic, proving to be a useful ally in the fight to maintain human health while being indoors and socially distant.
Benefits of Mobile Healthcare
It's essential to understand some of the other terms that come under the umbrella of eHealth, such as video doctor visits, telehealth, and Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM). Most of these aspects now use mobile technology to deliver optimal results.
Some benefits of the recent emergence of mobile health or M health include:
When compared to traditional medicine, which relied heavily on the efficiency of medical practice and its staff, patients now get on-demand, personalized, and intuitive care at their fingertips.
Various healthcare technologies give physicians a choice on how to use and maximize hardware and software tools at their disposal.
Virtual healthcare facilities and mobile health check-ups, even in remote, rural parts of a country, mean that less urgent symptoms like rashes and coughs can be attended to promptly and solved with minimum intervention.
Use of trackers by medical practitioners to provide patient reminders for taking timely doses while monitoring serious conditions like atrial fibrillation and blood sugar levels.
In the current post-pandemic reality, many high-risk patients with cancer, chronic pain, asthma, and other conditions get routine care and peace of mind that their doctors can work with them remotely.
Physical therapy patients benefit from fitness apps and video visits to help them keep up with their treatments and maintain contact with their healthcare facilities.
The pandemic has cast a spotlight on mental health, and virtual visits with a therapist are a new normal that's here to stay.
Emerging Trends in New Mobile Healthcare Technology
The number of smartphone users around the world surpasses six billion and is pegged to reach 7.5 billion by 2026. (Source) The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) and evolving technologies from wearables to video visits and fitness games to physical therapy will continue to bring the most profound change in this industry.
Addictions and Mental Health
Smoking, drugs, and alcohol addiction are all areas that require constant monitoring to keep patients from relapses, and GPS and other mobile applications have found a strong role in helping with addictions. Remote mental health therapy is another emerging trend in mobile healthcare, and raising awareness around its use will help reach more people. One 2021 US-based Mckinsey study found that telehealth had the highest uptake in usage by 50% in psychiatry, followed by 30% in substance use treatment.
New Customer Profile
Digital natives are the highest users of mobile technology. This customer profile always has their ‘eye on the phone’ and is more responsive to adopting new introductions in mobile health technologies and applications. Home assistants are also becoming a norm in urban homes, offering a great technology partner for ensuring mHealth to all.
Prevention and Diagnostics
It’s easy to use smart devices to create a preventive health regimen that includes reminders for standing/walking, medications, appointments, and more. Mobile diagnostic tools such as test kits and monitors are cost-effective features that are easy to use, especially in rural areas where a faster response in healthcare is the need of the hour.
Pediatrics and Senior Care
Two vulnerable sections of any population are children and seniors. Mhealth has led to the growing development of care models that cover routine maintenance needs, vaccination tracking, self-diagnostic, and monitoring tools for blood pressure and diabetes.
Challenges and the Future of Mobile Healthcare
Real-world challenges exist in countries like India, where there are a little over 430 million mobile users, the second highest after China, but market penetration is still too low for such technologies to be effective across the country. Other challenges exist in terms of privacy laws; in most countries, data sharing between various devices and applications can cause treatment compliance issues.
The future of the mobile healthcare sector depends strongly on the following aspects:
The impact on cost and effectiveness of mobile healthcare is still under study, and sufficient data is needed for a conclusive response.
Investors in the private space will have to work with regulation and government bodies to roll out these technologies more efficiently.
Community mobilization and health promotion by educating patients to use mobile tools for prevention-over-treatment in managing their health will be a key component to the success of mHealth.
Mobile care offers unprecedented research and development opportunities for understanding and solving long-standing illnesses.
In this growing industry with too many emerging players, we need to consider the ease of adoption by medical practitioners and seamless integration into current medical practices.
Moving forward, the future of healthcare will be a holistic hybrid model which pairs all the positive aspects of in-person medicine, and the ease of reach from mobile medical technologies will create growing customer confidence in mHealth.