How Doctors Can Leverage Mobile Technology For Patient Retention

The mobile wave has engulfed the world and its impact on healthcare has been nothing less than overwhelming. According to a research conducted by Markets and Markets, the mHealth technology market is expected to grow by 33% to cross USD 60 billion by 2020. Another survey by GreatCall showed that 93% of physicians believed that mHealth could contribute greatly to improving patient health. As mHealth cements its place in healthcare, let’s evaluate how doctors can leverage mobile technology for patient retention.

Reduce Wait Times

Long wait times could be listed as one of the biggest banes that patients face when going for a doctors’ appointment. Even with prior appointments, most patients have to wait endlessly to meet their doctors. And often after a seemingly endless wait, the patient is informed during a consultation that they have to come back after conducting a certain battery of tests. This is not only a waste of time for the patient but the doctor as well. With the consumerisation of healthcare, doctors can now leverage mHealth apps to take a look at patient history and intimate them of the tests that need to be done before they even meet them. Further, using mHealth apps, doctors can avoid appointment overlaps and post-appointment confirmation and notifications which ensure a smoother interaction with the patient during his/her physical visit.

Effective Communication

The right mobile apps can play a great role in making the doctor-patient communication more effective. Patients can easily store all their medical records and health history on comprehensive mobile health apps and access them anytime and anywhere. This solves the problem of the missing documents that we ever so often face when meeting with a doctor. With all the information stored in a central repository, doctors can spend the face time with the patients more productively and promote better interactions to manage the patients’ health better. This also leaves the patient more satisfied and less likely to shop around for another doctor.

Better Patient Management

Using mHealth doctors can improve patient management and become more proactive with their patients. Proactive patient management in the form of timely communication regarding patient appointments, important notifications, and updates, post-appointment messages etc. can be delivered to the patient using an app to ensure that the patient does not miss out on any vital piece of information needed to maintain their health. Along with this, doctors can centralise all patient-related information in a central data repository that can be accessed anytime and anywhere which can be of great help to manage a patients’ health remotely.

Pre and Post-Operative Care Management

One of the biggest pain points that patients have is regarding pre and post-operative care. While information is provided to them both regarding pre and post-operative care, it is usually disseminated in one session making it hard to retain the information. Using mobile apps, doctors can send out relevant information to their patients at the right time so that the patients can take the measures both pre and post operation. This not only helps in better health management but also reduces readmission rates and helps in reducing healthcare costs for the patient.

Better Transparency

Patients today demand greater information access. While the healthcare sector has adopted digital technology, they are still trying to play catch up with other sectors such as retail. Patients today demand faster information access regarding their health. Research shows that a majority of healthcare consumers prefer using digital technology to visiting a hospital to get clarifications regarding the care that they are receiving. A 2017 study by American Well states that 26% of patients are likely to change healthcare systems to find a provider offering tele-visits. Doctors leveraging mHealth can help their patients access all the health information they need and proactively answer all questions that go into better health management.

Pre-emptive Care

mHealth applications also provide a treasure trove of data that physicians can leverage for pre-emptive healthcare. Leveraging data analytics, doctors can plan better service delivery dependent on the patient requirement, and analyse and predict health conditions based on the patients’ health records to enable preventive healthcare. Further, doctors can upload tutorials on preventive healthcare and give practical advice to their patients on how to manage their health and health conditions better. All these things help in keeping the patients, the current consumers of healthcare, happy and satisfied as they find doctors becoming more invested in their health.

As they say that numbers do not lie, and going by the adoption rate of mHealth it is becoming clear that this technology trend is not only here but is soon on its way to becoming the enabler of better interactions and better patient outcomes. Using mobile technology doctors can create greater engagement with their patients and enable better outcomes. Patient retention then becomes an automatic consequence of this effort.

How Technology Can Transform Doctor-Patient Relationship

The doctor-patient relationship is on the cusp of disruption. The increased availability of information, technology adoption, the rise of smartphones, better carrier networks, and increased internet usage are all contributing to the rise of the ‘involved patient’. Susannah Fox entrepreneur in residence at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says, “Consumers only used to get a filtered drip of information. What the Internet did was pull open that funnel and give people more access — not complete access — to health information.

No longer are patients passive consumers of healthcare. Today, they want to manage their own health journeys, make their own health choices, keep track of their wellbeing and access clinical support that they feel is right for them. Almost 90% of the millennial generation look for medical information on social networks before they make their healthcare decisions – it is a testament to the fact that the locus of control is moving from the hands of the physician alone and into the hands of the individuals seeking care. With the help of technology, healthcare providers too, are looking at improving patient engagement along with increasing efficiencies and improving operational costs.

Physicians today are looking at mobile phones to boost patient engagement and optimally utilize their time in between commutes. A report from Research2Guidance shows that almost 80% of physicians now use a smartphone or medical app. Since an increasing number of mobile apps are now being developed keeping the regulatory and compliance requirements in mind, the healthcare community comprising of doctors, private practices and hospitals are now finding it easier to use mobile devices across the healthcare spectrum. James Avallone, Director of Physician Research at Manhattan Research aptly states, “As we move to an outcomes-based model of healthcare provision…, remote monitoring and telehealth are going to drive an extension of the point of care. We’re seeing physician attitudes really align with policy.”  In this blog, we take a look at how technology is helping doctors and patients foster a better working relationship.

Health Information Management

Given that most patients have online access, they can leverage technology to access their health records. Technologies such as cloud give both the physician and the patient access to health records such as scans, X-Rays, pathological reports, patient history etc. anytime and anywhere. This ensures that neither the patient nor the doctor wastes any time looking for and filtering the right healthcare information when they need it. With health information management systems, doctors can get a comprehensive view of a patient’s health history and are aware of any problems or issues that the patient might have forgotten to mention during a consultation. Such technologies make sure that the consultation time is used productively which make doctor-patient interactions smoother and more effective.

Improved Communication

Technology is also helping doctors and patients improve interactions with each other. With more access to their health-related information, patients feel more in control of their care as they are able to understand their conditions better.

  • Post consultation updates that can be automated and sent via SMS’s ensure that patients have access to all vital pieces of information that are essential for managing their health.
  • Improved doctor-patient interactions not only impacts the patient’s experience with the doctor but also make sure that they follow their practitioner’s directives better.
  • Access to health data also gives patients the chance to ask relevant and more focused questions to their doctors and helps them gain an understanding of what their health data is saying from the physician.
  • With technology, patients can now discuss their medications, side effects, alternative medicine, lifestyle changes etc. with their doctors more accurately.

The role of the doctor thus has evolved from being an authoritarian care provider to one who is more of a mentor and an advisor. The doctors too are able to facilitate these interactions easily as getting access to current and updated patient data and records are at their fingertips owing to smartphones.

Pre and Post-Operative Care

Technology goes a long way in advancing patient outcomes by improving pre and post-operative care and improves the surgical pathways.

  • Doctors can use technology to help the patient understand risks and benefits of a particular surgery before an operation with the help of evidence-based suggestions.
  • With the help of direct messages, doctors can intimate the patient on the necessary precautions and measures they need to take before a surgery.
  • Health information exchanges can become more streamlined when clinical data in the form of medical records and investigation results can be efficiently shared with the right stakeholders before surgical intervention making the pre-operative process smoother for both the patient and the doctors.
  • Doctors can also use technology to deliver tailored post-operative care plans which include expected length of stay, post-operative care, self-managed symptoms, and side effects etc.
  • They can complete symptom assessments electronically that can help in effective discharge planning and send electronic alerts to their patients regarding medicines and consultation reminders once they are discharged from the hospital to make health management easier and effective.

Chronic Disease Management

Technology goes a long way in chronic disease management. Mobile health applications help people with chronic diseases become more accountable towards their health. Interoperable applications enable doctors to gather healthcare data to track their patient’s behaviours and send out timely reminders to help them manage their conditions better and decrease hospital readmissions. With such technology, medical staff can send out educational interventions by providing objective data and helps the patients manage their condition better.  Almost 93% of doctors believe that mHealth applications can improve a patient’s health and 40% of doctors believe that mHealth technologies can reduce the number of visits to a physician.

Risk Management

Mobile health applications also give physicians access to health-related data which helps them identify potential candidates who are ‘at risk’ of a particular disease. For example, accessing health data to identify patients who have been susceptible to the flu at a certain time of the year can help the doctor take a more preventive approach towards healthcare. The same data can be put to use to even identify patients who are at risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary diseases etc.  and preventive steps can be taken to reduce risk and promote better health.

Clearly, technology has been a big influencer in the changing doctor-patient dynamics. However, while leveraging healthcare technologies, it is essential that the application fosters interoperability between the patient and the doctor, is easy to use and is secure. Technology is allowing both patients and practitioners more control over health by offering reliable data, access to clinical support, and high information levels. This is helping patients get closer to medical science and health management than ever before by increasing transparency and participation and is helping doctors improve the quality of their patient interactions, reduce wait times and better patient outcomes.

 

Chronic Health Management with mHealth

According to a recent study conducted by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), chronic diseases account for 60% of the deaths in India, annually killing more than five million people every year. These diseases include various ailments such as diabetes strokes, cardiovascular diseases, mental health illnesses, cancers, and chronic lung diseases which will cost the country around Rs. 280 trillion between 2012 and 2030 in terms of economic output. Why are these numbers so high? Is there something we can do to reduce them?

While there is no definite answer to these questions, mHealth is one technology that is actively helping in reducing these numbers. One of the major problems in chronic diseases is that they cannot be treated in one go. Patients need to monitor their health on an ongoing basis and also need to maintain a constant communication with their doctors so that the doctors are able to keep a check on the patients’ health and monitor the effects of medicines. The introduction of mHealth has been a major breakthrough in this area since it works on concepts such as consolidated data and encourages faster and easier communication between the patient and the doctor.

So what exactly is mHealth? The use of mobile phones and other wireless technology in medical care can be termed as mHealth. This includes the use of Short Messaging Service (SMS), getting a consultation from your doctor/physician over the phone and the use of apps that are built for health management of the patients.

Health Record Management

Mobile apps make it easy to measure, track, and keep a record of various statistics related to chronic diseases such as blood glucose, weight, diet, and exercise. Instead of maintaining a record of these vitals on paper, patients can maintain their health records right on their phones for access from anywhere, anytime. This recorded data can then be easily shared with doctors, clinics, hospitals and laboratories without having to carry loads of paper reports.

Doctor-Patient Communication

Mobile has made the doctor-patient communication very easy and effective. Patients can communicate with their doctors through messaging apps, share their reports through apps and also maintain a history of their conversation. Patients also have the option to share their health data with the doctors and receive feedback and advice related to their health.

Health Management

Mobile apps have made health management very convenient. For chronic health diseases, patients need to be extremely cautious and regular with regards to their medication.  There are a few apps which intimate you with reminders to take your medicines at a particular time of the day and monitor the time when the medicine was actually taken – making the adherence to medication easier.

People suffering from chronic diseases need to keep a check on things like what they eat, how much they exercise, their heart rate, hemoglobin levels, etc. because excessively high or low numbers can have serious effects on their health. Mobile apps help them maintain a record of this data. With real-time access to data about their health, they can engage in personalised health management and know what is going on in their body. The meaningful insights offered by the data accumulated over a time helps patients is being more aware, responsible and proactive when it comes to maintaining their health issues.

Rural Healthcare

Another major trend in mHealth is Interactive Voice Response (IVR). This is especially helpful in the rural parts of the country where the masses do not have access to the latest technologies or basic health care. IVR provides distant training to health workers with the use of a simple cell phone with text and talk capabilities. This provides the possibility for remote education, disease tracking, monitoring, data collection, diagnostic and treatment support, communication, and training. An evaluation of these activities showed that most of the users had a great experience and would like to see more such initiatives.

It is evident that twenty-first-century health care will be driven by mobile technologies rather than location-based diagnostics which can be carried out only in hospitals and clinics. We will be able to undertake treatments anytime and anywhere, making them as mobile as we are and ultimately change the face of how the healthcare industry has been functioning.