With smartphones, mobile apps and wirelessly connected devices, it’s easier than ever for consumers to become active participants in their own care and the healthcare process.
It’s still the early days, yet consider the potential for mobile technology to deliver lower costs and better outcomes. Mobile apps and devices could help diagnose an illness, better manage chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart conditions, flag early signs of trouble, allow recovery and rehabilitation to occur in the home, and create a virtual workforce of caregivers aligned around a patient.
Here are some recent developments in mobile healthcare technology:
- The FDA cleared 31 digital health devices in 2014, including a disposable biosensor system from Vital Connect that enables the remote monitoring of vital signs. More devices are awaiting clearance in 2015.
- In 2015, the final judging round will take place in the $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE, a global competition to create a personal device to diagnose 16 conditions and measure five real-time vital signs in a non-invasive manner.
- The global advanced patient-monitoring market is currently worth about $31.4 billion, according to Kalorama Information.
- The U.S. patient-monitoring market is projected to grow to more than $5 billion by 2020, driven by the demand for customized healthcare solutions, increased chronic illness among the aging population and strained healthcare budgets.
In some cases, there is a blurring of lines between consumer mobile apps and regulated medical devices. One app recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows radiologists to view images on their smartphones, while another allows cardiologists to monitor patients for irregular heartbeats.
A looming deterrent to vendors developing such applications is determining which types of apps will require FDA approval. The FDA review process can be costly and time-consuming, requiring careful consideration of whether the approval effort is worthwhile. Yet apps that aid or simulate medical devices could have an incredibly powerful impact on quality and cost management for patients and providers alike.
Payers should monitor these trends closely and encourage hospitals and other point-of-care facilities to incorporate useful mobile tools for data collection and patient feedback into their care management processes. As the industry moves to risk-based reimbursement environments, these new tools could be a boon, providing quantifiable data over the continuum of care to support outcomes-based payment models.