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Mobile Health Remote Monitoring: A Coming Wave?

February 6, 2012
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A new report points up a horizon-type topic to contemplate: many more smartphone-based care management choices

Juniper Research, a Hampshire, U.K.-based market research firm, last week announced the publication of a new report on mobile health (mHealth). According to Juniper’s highlight findings, the number of patients worldwide who will be able to take advantage of increasing smartphone processing power in order to have their conditions remotely monitored will rise to 3 million by 2016.

Right now, the report finds, remote patient monitoring of patients with cardiac conditions in the U.S. is the area leading the field, while remote management of such chronic diseases as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) will also be growing in the near future. Backing all this up is Juniper’s projection that mobile healthcare and medical app downloads will go from 44 million worldwide in 2012 to 142 million in 2016. In other words, there will be an explosion in the adoption of such technologies.

Clearly, there’s a tremendous opportunity here, both in the U.S. and internationally, though Juniper’s researchers note that providers in this country are awaiting clarification from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on which mHealth apps will require agency approval going forward.

In any case, it’s projected statistics like these that can at least point out growing trends in the adoption of various types of healthcare technology and information technology. And what should healthcare IT leaders in this country be thinking about these developments?

I think what’s clear is that we will see in the next few years a stunning growth in opportunities for physicians and nurses to work directly with engaged patients to help them better monitor and manage their chronic illnesses, along with, most likely, fairly widespread confusion as to a variety of choices of types of technology and programs to choose, technical linkage issues, and other questions.  Still, even as everyone is focusing right now, very appropriately of course, on meaningful use- and healthcare reform-related IT and data mandates, the release of reports like this one remind us that there’s always a lot of horizon stuff to be focused on as well.

Of course, all of this presupposes continuing improvements in interoperability and connectivity between mobile health-based programs and EHRs and other clinical information systems. But, given the right options, it’s hard to believe we won’t be able to make some real progress leveraging mobile health technology for improved care management, as well as enhanced patient engagement. All of these should prove positive for clinical outcomes, not to mention provider-patient relationships.