What is mHealth?

mHealth (Mobile Health) refers to the practice of medicine primarily via mobile devices. The devices could include phones, computers, etc. to provide healthcare, information, and data collection. It is a breakthrough for the growth of patient feedback and understanding. mHealth also ensures more autonomy for patients and empowers them to make decisions regarding their healthcare. The Global mHealth market expects to cross almost $200 billion by 2026 which is a market growth rate of 31.6% CAGR.

What are its applications?

There are several ways mHealth can be utilized. 

  • SMS is an effective way to raise awareness among the public. The public receives messages about various medical subjects, testing, and treatment procedures. It also ensures the convenience of medical procedures. 

A case study published in mHealth journal reports that TMIs(Text message interventions) is a successful way to reach low-income groups. TMIs included clinic appointment reminders, pharmaceutical support, monitoring of illness, and parent support programs. The usability of the TMIs by the low-income groups was comparable to the use of them by the groups with higher education and literacy. The focus group was mainly immigrant Latino families and appropriate cultural and linguistic tailoring primarily Spanish was done to make sure the usage was optimized. What this shows is mHealth is a highly effective and cost-effective approach to decrease healthcare disparities for vulnerable populations.

  • Another important application of mHealth is where the patient’s disease is taboo such as HIV/AIDS, mental health, and STDs.

An example of this is found in a case study published in mHealth journal which combines drug use and reproductive health. Maternal opioid use disorder(OUD) has risen sharply among rural residents of the US than in urban areas. About 3.5% of all hospital deliveries in Maine had shown OUD in 2018. The study conducted a pilot outreach program which included health information as well as an opportunity to connect with a health practitioner via telehealth to receive HIV counseling, contraception, and pregnancy testing. The results concluded that a majority of the women availed of the services and more than one-third of the women accessed the services via telehealth. This tells us that patient anonymity, easy accessibility, as well as innovative solutions, are key when dealing with sensitive issues for the populations which are difficult to reach or recluse.

  • It also makes it easier to control and track outbreaks of infectious diseases. Examples include malaria, Ebola, and HIV/AIDS. mHealth is crucial in collecting field information. This helps policymakers measure current policies and make new ones if necessary. 

A case study published in mHealth journal conducted a pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT) of daily vs weekly interactive voice response calls for the support of patients undergoing antiretroviral treatment. This was intended for the 2 million or more patients who are living with HIV. The results show that within six months the adherence level increased based on pill counts and medical records. It was concluded that even basic clinical monitoring via messaging services was enough to make sure the patient followed up.

  • Latest innovations in mHealth

Innovation has been non-stop in the field of mHealth. Some of the latest products include:

  1. A Miami-based company Papa has launched a new addition to its virtual senior care platform Papa Health. The new services will allow members to connect with Papa Docs who are board-certified physicians, nurses, and health care providers. They can also prescribe medicines and provide healthcare plans. This helps senior citizens to access health care at the touch of a button.
  2. The Babylon company through its health branch aims to improve Rwanda’s public healthcare system. This is done with a contribution from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Through its Babyl Rwanda subsidiary, it will digitally-enable public health centers. It will enable patients to input their symptoms, figure out potential causes, and provides them with information to take the next step. This will allow even the remotest parts of the country access to healthcare.
  3. QliqSOFT and CPSI, a community healthcare solutions company are launching a Covid-19 Vaccination Assistant Chatbot which will be made available in 2021 to help administration workflows and provide efficient vaccination. It will provide a FAQ module, provide an in-chat option for patients, and will provide reminders in advance. It will also help in transportation and can digitally store records of your vaccination if that is needed.
  4. Wolters Kluwer launched a new Alexa service Emmi Care Plan to help patients with chronic conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) focus on recovery at home or management of the disease. This also ensures healthcare providers can connect with patients via Alexa and can tailor care plans as necessary.

As people all over the world open themselves to the possibility of virtual medical care and assistance, mHealth will be critical in maintaining doctor-to-patient communication and confidentiality intact.