Study: Mobile Health Continues to Grow

After moving slowly out of the gate, mobile health applications have hit their stride, according to a report from the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, Washington, D.C. The report, which was released in December of 2012, contends that the number of mobile device users who downloaded at least one mobile healthcare application nearly doubled from 127 million in 2011 to 247 million in 2012.

Although consumers are driving much of the demand for mobile health technologies and applications, spending $1.3 billion on downloadable healthcare related applications in 2012 compared with only $718 million in 2011, other stakeholders are continuing to emerge. For example, health insurance companies are promoting the use of mobile technologies in sharing information about hospitals, physician performance and encouraging consumers to use them for self-care of chronic conditions. And pharmacists are using mobile health technologies to offer information to consumers about therapeutic solutions, according to the report.

Further, mobile health technologies that can aid in clinical care, such as those that enable remote monitoring, care coordination and access to patient records, have matured, and as a result, mobile point-of-care spending is projected to grow from $2.8 billion in 2010 to $4.4 billion in 2015.

While adoption of mobile technologies among physicians is high, the study contends their use in daily practice is less so. For example, it found that while 81% of physicians own a smartphone or tablet computer, only 25% use it in their practice. Of those physicians, 86% used their mobile device to search for condition related information, 50% used it for information about pharmaceuticals and 46% searched for information about clinical symptoms.

Other mobile healthcare applications beyond data lookup, however, are beginning to produce results, according to the study. For example, remote monitoring and telemedicine using consumer mobile technologies such as Skype, have reduced hospital readmissions for patients and offer faster decision-making and improved communications for physicians.

Mobile technology also has been helpful in the development and use of games for educating young patients on how to maintain wellness and care for their chronic diseases. Also, the use of other emerging systems and technologies on mobile devices, such as geospacial tracking, touchscreen abilities, and extended integration and functionality of new and existing applications has the potential to further benefit healthcare, according to the study.

Despite such promising results and predictions, there still are some challenges to additional expansion of mobile health, the study contends. For example, there haven’t been many best practices developed on how to monetize mobile healthcare applications. Also, there’s a continuous need to ensure the privacy and security of patient information across the evolving devices and applications used in mobile health. Further, the report highlights the need for regulatory scrutiny of mobile health’s role in healthcare.