By Emmie Cannon
Healthcare. It is the business that affects everybody. Business need health workers, healthy workers need healthy coworkers, and everyone wants a healthy life.
In order to reach “everybody,” professionals are tapping into what all of us are glued to—mobile phones.
The new trend of utilizing technology, and in particular telephones, into the healthcare industry is dubbed “telemedicine.”
Telemedicine had its start in the late 1960s, as doctors communicated to patients via telephones and other avant-garde technology. Failing to gain tranction, telemedicine went into a short period of remission. The practice became popular again in the 1990s, and the industry has since continued to grow and improve with evolving technologies.[i]
Various subindustries of the health world are catching onto the telemedicine trend and applying it in innovative ways. In Arizona, scholars and professionals teamed together to examine technological use in clinical examinations. Some clinics offer videoconferencing with patients and the trend continues to shift toward mobile phones. All of these efforts contribute to convenience of health services and thus patient satisfaction. Medically-equipped smartphones can even be used to perform advanced and relatively inexpensive examinations for conditions such as migraines and heart problems.[ii]
Utilizing the ability to perform basic examinations via smartphone could decrease expensive emergency visits by diagnosing patients sooner when their conditions are less serious. Quicker diagnoses mean quicker treatment and quicker recovery and possibly a less serious outcome. Patients are left with more money in their pockets and more confidence in their ability to receive help for health-related matters. A more satisfied population contributes to greater wellbeing and a more productive workforce in the economy.
The Transplant Use Case
Mobile technology is even used to help lung-transplant candidates. Candidates are often unable to participate in needed programs because of factors such as geography and insurance restrictions. Frailty is highly associated with lung-transplant candidates; however, studies have shown that frailty may be greatly reduced or even reversible through exercise-based intervention.
Patients used an app for exercise routines, nutrition, and other aspects of the healing process. The study showed that home-based mobile healthcare can be safe and effective, even for conditions as serious as those meriting a lung transplant.[iii] Another study incorporated mobile phone technology for patients with multiple sclerosis.[iv] Similar procedures could be used for other patients with less serious ailments.
The lung-transplant candidate study offers great insight for the economics of healthcare. After participating in the program, one subject expressed, “This study has really helped me and my family. I’m so tired of just sitting around waiting while I get sicker. I feel like I have control of something for a change.”[v]
Breaking Down Barriers
Researchers in California studied how patients with chronic diseases use mobile technology in relation with primary care clinics. Not only did a large number of participants use apps related to health management, but additional participants also expressed interest in learning more about their health and chronic conditions through mobile apps. The study revealed that utilizing technology more for healthcare services could break down barriers of language and socioeconomic status to aid individuals in management of nutrition, exercise, and disease symptoms through culturally popular means.[vi]
Using technology in such a way would increase productivity in diverse areas of our nation that are otherwise hard to reach due to troublesome barriers. Telemedicine has the potential to contribute more resources to the pool of human capital. Those who otherwise may not receive the help they need could participate in better-quality jobs as their health improves through accessible programs, increasing the efficiency of our economy.
Marginalized urban and rural communities have greater access to affordable and quality healthcare with the use of mobile phones.[vii] A study in California revealed that 91% of participants owned a mobile phone.[viii] Geography need not be a barrier for those seeking accessible healthcare. Whether communities be small or large, citizens have increasing access to better wellbeing and a more productive life. Healthy people make happy people who contribute to their families and society at large.
Home-based mobile programs encourage independence among citizens and personal responsibility for good health. Using home programs frees up health care professionals to really focus on the most important tasks for their practices as a whole and especially at risk-patients. Systems run smoother; the allocation of human capital becomes more efficient.
Mobile apps are not just used for those with chronic diseases. They can be accessed by the general public. Take a look at the app store on your phone, and you will find dozens and dozens of programs to help you personalize your own health management.
While previous findings support the idea of using telehealth to tap into areas of human capital that may not otherwise be reached, the general population also benefits from the use of telemedicine, thus increasing the overall effectiveness and wellbeing of a majority of societal members.
Telemedicine can still be further developed to aid those with chronic diseases and disorders not only improving quality of life but also the wellbeing that drives our society in a positive direction.
As the trend of telemedicine and
telehealth continues, our world may see a decrease in the severity of disease
symptoms, an increase in customer satisfaction with healthcare, and a boost in
efficient resource management.
[i][i] Weinstein, R. S., Krupinski, E. A. and Doarn, C. R. (2018) ‘Clinical Examination Component of Telemedicine, Telehealth, mHealth, and Connected Health Medical Practices’, The Medical Clinics Of North America, 102(3), pp. 533–544. doi: 10.1016/j.mcna.2018.01.002.
[ii]Weinstein, et al. ‘Clinical Examination Component of Telemedicine,’ pp. 533-544.
[iii] Singer, J. P. et al. (2018) ‘A mobile health technology enabled home-based intervention to treat frailty in adult lung transplant candidates: A pilot study’, Clinical Transplantation, 32(6), p. e13274. doi: 10.1111/ctr.13274.
[iv] Griffin, N. and Kehoe, M. (2018) ‘A questionnaire study to explore the views of people with multiple sclerosis of using smartphone technology for health care purposes’, Disability And Rehabilitation, 40(12), pp. 1434–1442. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2017.1300332.
[v] Singer, et al. ‘A mobile health technology enable home-based intervention.’
[vi] Ramirez, Veronica et al. (2016) ‘Assessing the Use of Mobile Health Technology by Patients: An Observational Study in Primary Care Clinics’, JMIR Mhealth And Uhealth, 4(2), p. e41. doi: 10.2196/mhealth.4928
[vii] Anon (2019). ‘What is Mobile Health Map? Impact Report | Mobile Health Map.’ Available at: https://www.mobilehealthmap.org/what-is-mobile-health-map [Accessed March 3, 2019].
[viii] Ramirez, et al. ‘Assessing the Use of Mobile Health Technology.’