According to GSMA real-time intelligence data, over 5.13 billion people had mobile devices worldwide in August 2019. This means that 66.53% of the world’s population has a mobile device (cell phone, tablet, or cellular-enabled iot device).
In the United States, 71.5% of the U.S. population has a mobile device. Americans’ love of mobile devices has ushered in multiple new ways to communicate with, monitor, remind, and care for patients. Mobile health technology—also known as mHealth—is fast becoming the patient-preferred way to access their providers, log in to patient portals, track their steps or glucose, launch a telehealth visit, and manage their medications and conditions. And the fact that patients have driven the revolution to mHealth apps and platforms makes it much more likely that they will comply when physicians and other providers “prescribe” mHealth apps as part of their treatment and care.
The concept of data being transmitted across wide distances is key to mHealth. Just as a radio tower can send your favorite songs to your home radio and your office radio, these systems wirelessly send data from the transmission point—Wi-Fi hotspot, cellular tower, or mobile device—to the receiver. This has been a cause for concern in the healthcare world, as it means that patient data will be broadcast “over the air” with the possibility that a third party might intercept and read those exchanges. Fortunately, Wi-Fi and cellular devices can send encrypted communications so that no one else can intercept what is being sent or discussed.
All of this transmitted data is gathered through various devices, such as blood pressure or glucose monitors, wireless scales, or software interfaces such as health record systems and patient wellness applications. This software, installed onto mobile devices, can enable patients and providers to communicate without being physically present in the same location.
There are no firm limits to what services can be delivered via mobile platforms, though some specialties are better suited to mHealth than others. A partial list of categories includes personal health, cardiology, dermatology, epidemiology, chronic and infectious disease management, diabetic care, physical therapy, otolaryngology, pediatrics, data entry, and patient and provider education.
The field of mHealth is still in an early stage of development, which leaves a lot of potential for growth and maturation within the market. Major manufacturers are entering into the field as they see the potential to tap into an increasingly lucrative market. The following trends are likely to develop over the next several years:
- Increased regulatory clarity
- Increased standardization
- Improved “signal-to-noise ratio” in the market
- Improved performance
- Decreased costs