When former Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, M.D. said, “Drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them,” he could never have imagined the crisis in medication compliance would reach multi-billion dollar proportions – but it has.
But, what is mobile communication or mHealth as industry leaders have dubbed it? mHealth is how the mobile technology of this era can be utilized to better manage patient healthcare and populations as a whole. Typically mHealth relates to custom designed applications and systems such as telemedicine, telehealth, e-health and biomedical sensing systems trying to achieve the following. It is the use of mobile communication through texting, social media, automated voice-calls, mobile applications and health IT interventions overall.
Studies show 50 percent of U.S. patients do not take their medicines as prescribed, non-compliance has been associated with as many as 125,000 deaths per year, 10 percent of older adult hospital admission, 40 percent of admissions to nursing homes, 20 percent of cases of preventable adverse drug events, and an additional $2,000 a year/patient in medical costs for physician visits.
The health care system is overburdened due to patients, with chronic illnesses like Diabetes, failing to manage their conditions. It is estimated that only two percent of the 347 million people with Diabetes follow the necessary care recommendations set forth by the American Diabetes Association. Asthma adherence rates have been reported as low as 30 percent and less than 20 percent of patients take statins as prescribed.
One of the biggest emerging technologies are smartphones - making it possible to get information anywhere and thus making healthcare tools mobile. Mobile devices have proven to be an effective tool in getting information through to a broad spectrum of people. Currently, mHealth tools remain an under-utilized medium for health promotion and maintenance, which is unfortunate because research increasingly shows the benefits of mHealth for improved health and/or behavior change at a relatively lower cost.
In the U.S. alone, 85 percent of adult Americans own a cellular phone. Originally, mobile phones were used for calling and text messaging however the advent of the ‘smartphone’ has changed all of that - internet usage is now mobile. Smartphones now come preprogrammed with a plethora of features and applications, among them are media players, direct links to social media platforms, photo galleries, document editors, games and the list goes on. However, the most commonly used feature remains Web browsing. This is significant considering that in the U.S. over 50 percent of all mobile phone owners have a smartphone. In fact, a recent Code report estimated that the amount of data traffic on cellular networks will increase 40-fold over the next five years, primarily due to mobile Web browsing.
More people have smartphones and are using them to access the Internet, but how does this relate to health? Close to one third of cell phone owners said they have used their phones to access health information, a rate that nearly doubled since two years ago! In addition, about one in five said they had a health-related app, most commonly ones concerning weight, diet, or exercise.
Given this information how do we ignore the obvious trends in the use of mobile health technology, moreover how do we not leverage this knowledge and technology to reach out to more patients, and improve their lives? And, in doing so, improve the future of the healthcare system. The goals need to be making mHealth tools easy for implementation by stakeholders to increase adherence and modify consumer behavior with minimal cost and great ROI.
Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli