Mobile Devices To Transform Healthcare

PricewaterhouseCoopers finds the annual consumer market for remote health monitoring devices and services could reach $43 billion.

Nicole Lewis, Contributor

September 10, 2010

6 Min Read

Slideshow: Who's Who In Healthcare IT

(click for larger image and for full photo gallery)

Three in 10 Americans said they would use their mobile phone to track and monitor their personal health, and 40% would be willing to pay for a remote monitoring device that sends health information directly to their doctor, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers' Health Research Institute study.

The report, released Wednesday at the International mHealth Conference in San Diego, is further evidence that mobile devices such as cell phones and smartphones are becoming an increasingly significant factor in improving the way physicians and patients communicate.

The Healthcare Unwired study interviewed 2,000 consumers and 1,000 physicians regarding their use and preferences for remote and mobile health services and devices. The results indicate that wireless technology, remote monitoring, and mobile devices are changing the nature of healthcare, making it possible to deliver care anywhere in ways that can reduce healthcare costs and keep people healthier.

Among the study's finding are:

-- Remote healthcare is supported by 56% of consumers, and 41% would prefer to have more of their care delivered via a mobile device.

-- Thirty-one percent of consumers said they would be willing to incorporate an application into their existing cell phone or smartphone to be able to track and monitor their personal health information.

-- Four in 10 consumers said they would be willing to pay for a device and a monthly subscription fee for a mobile phone application that would send text and e-mail reminders to take and refill their medications, or to access their medical records and track their health. Receiving medication reminders sent via text would be helpful for 27% of consumers, and men are twice as likely as women to say they would use a mobile device for health-related reminders.

-- Forty percent of consumers would be willing to pay for a remote monitoring device and a monthly subscription that would automatically send to their doctor health information such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight.

-- Physicians agree that patient compliance with doctor recommendations is a major obstacle to managing health outcomes, and 88% said they would like their patients to be able to track and/or monitor their health at home, particularly their weight, blood sugar levels, and vital signs.

-- More than half -- 57% -- of physicians said they would like to use remote devices to monitor patients outside of the hospital. Physicians, however, want to see filtered information or exceptions in their patient's health, not all the data all the time. Too much information could actually slow down care, they said.

PricewaterhouseCoopers' Health Research Institute estimates the annual consumer market for remote/mobile monitoring devices and services to be $7.7 billion to $43 billion, based on the range consumers said they would be willing to pay.

"Remote and mobile technology is making it possible to move healthcare delivery outside the traditional settings of physician offices and hospitals to wherever patients are. It's bringing back the concept of doctors making house calls," Daniel Garrett, PricewaterhouseCoopers' head of health IT, said in a statement. "New consumer-oriented business models and technologies are emerging. Companies that will be well positioned competitively are those than can integrate mobile health into healthcare delivery and create value in the health system by helping doctors and their patients better manage health and wellness through mass personalization."

The PricewaterhouseCoopers' report outlines three emerging business models for companies looking to capitalize on mobile health, including: development of consumer products and services; operational and clinical support; and infrastructure that focuses on security, speed, and integration of information.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, so far the momentum behind mobile health has been from companies outside traditional healthcare, such as technology and telecommunications companies looking to expand their footprint in the health industries. However, when asked who they would prefer to receive mobile health services from, consumers ranked their healthcare provider, hospital, or health system as number one, followed by their health insurer.

The study also looked at physicians' use of mobile devices and found that:

-- Nearly two-thirds (63%) of physicians surveyed said they are using personal devices for mobile health solutions that aren't connected to their practice or hospital IT systems, and 30% said their hospital or practice leaders will not support the use of mobile health devices.

-- Of those physicians who are using mobile devices in their practice, 56% said the devices expedite decision making and nearly 40% said the use of mobile devices decreases time spent on administration.

Slideshow: Disney Cancer Center Offers High Tech Care

(click for larger image and for full photo gallery)

-- The top challenge physicians said they face in their practice is accessing information where and when it is needed. One-third of physicians surveyed said they make decisions based on incomplete information for 70% of patients they see.

-- Only half of physicians surveyed currently access electronic medical records (EMRs) while visiting and treating their patients, but that is expected to increase with coming meaningful use requirements for physicians to use interoperable EMRs. Physicians agreed that the greatest benefit of mobile health would be to help them make decisions faster by accessing more accurate data in real time.

-- The second biggest challenge for physicians is they don't have time to interact with patients as much as they would like, and 45% said that Internet visits would expand access to patients.

-- Mobile health technologies like remote monitoring, e-mail, or text messaging with patients could reduce the number of office visits by 11 to 30%, said 40% of physicians

The report also highlighted barriers to the adoption of mobile health such as in-person consultation, which is still the main basis of reimbursement in healthcare. Public payers and private health insurers, who are primarily responsible for paying for healthcare, have generally not pushed for adoption of mobile health. Nor has the healthcare industry developed a plan for electronic transactions in the way other industries have, such as for music and video downloads.

However, this is changing. For example, a number of health plans are beginning to pay for remote monitoring devices to help reduce hospital readmission costs. Some physicians are now getting limited reimbursement for phone and e-mail consultations, telehealth, and texting. And nearly half (49%) of consumers surveyed said they would be willing to pay out-of-pocket for electronic consultation with their physicians such as through the Internet, e-mail, or text messaging.

The study also indicated that infrastructure in the health system also needs to be addressed. Hospital IT networks need more bandwidth to support rapidly expanding data transactions and exchanges with the growth of mobile health and electronic medical records.

About the Author(s)

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights