Who Benefits the Most from mHealth and Telehealth Technology?

October 2, 2014 Marijah Adams-Cleek

Tele and Mobile health technologies are huge right now. #mHealth and #telehealth have been regular features of our posts for the last year or so, and organizations like HIMSS have entire summits for the industry. This is fantastic for a few reasons.

mHealth and telehealth:

  1. Reduce healthcare costs.
  2. Reach the most remote people.
  3. Maintain quality of care.

Inside of the reach of mHealth and telehealth, certain groups are benefiting more than most.

Elderly

Though the elderly are usually the last to the new tech party, research shows that they’re finally starting to arrive, but not at the rate that mHealth and telehealth proponents might like to see. 77% of adults ages 65 and older own mobile phones, 59% report going online, and 47% use high-speed broadband connections home. With these increases in digital and broadband usage, mHealth and telehealth can be used by elderly patients who have difficulty making it to doctor appointments.

Advances in medical technology have made it easier for people to live longer, healthier lives than previous generations. With expanded life expectancy, however, comes a large number of adults with reduced transportation options.

One component is telecare, the act of creating a health ecosystem within the home via electronic devices, like computers, TVs, smartphones and apps, health monitors, etc. The process is quite fascinating. This ecosystem uses connected devices within the home to send messages reminding people to take their medicines, call their doctors, or other important steps needed to continue a healthy lifestyle. That being said, a large majority of the 77% of the elderly population with mobile phones are still using basic cells, not smartphones, leading telecare to be more on the telehealth side.

Because of the mobility and mental breakdowns that occur in later life, the use of mobile health technologies might just benefit them more than any other group in the U.S.

Veterans

The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has made headlines recently for their use of mobile technologies to improve the veterans’ quality of care.  The VA has introduced several mHealth initiatives since 2012, and they’re currently gearing up to introduce a pilot program in 18 medical centers. The program will issue mobile devices to track patients’ data.

The goal behind this initiative is to reduce medical costs by roughly $2,000 per patient and cut hospital stays by upward of 58%. And it’s working. In June, the VA released a set of statistics that show how the experiences of veterans in VA care are greatly improving. Some of the most significant findings include:

Reducing:

  • Days of bed care by 59%.
  • Hospital admissions by 35%.
  • Mental health patients’ days of bed care by 38%.

Saving:

  • $34.45 per consultation for clinical video telehealth.
  • $38.82 in travel expenses per consultation for store-and-forward telehealth.

Given more recent findings that delayed appointments have led to sub-par outcomes and death within the veteran population, the use of mHealth shines new hope on the situation.

Remotely located

Another part of the VA study showed that 45% of the 608,900 patient participants lived in rural areas where access to VA healthcare would’ve been limited without mHealth technologies. And those numbers are rising 22% annually. But veterans aren’t the only ones who are benefitting.

Nearly one in five Americans live in rural areas where physician shortages are a real problem. Not only are hospitals hard to come by, but they’re also hard to reach. mHealth and telehealth technology makes it much easier for patients to receive checkups which could drastically reduce future inpatient hospital stays and subsequent costs. One shining example is the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium’s initiative using telehealth tools to connect 2,500 care providers to patients.

While the use of telehealth technology greatly benefits this population, there are a few significant roadblocks that stand in the way. Like the lack of broadband access or in general lack of knowledge on how to use the tools themselves.

Only time will tell the true level of value that mHealth and telehealth provides to each of these groups. What is certain is that advancements will at least ease the heavily burdened healthcare system while making it easier for patients to receive care, regardless of location or physical condition. What do you think is the greatest benefit to come from mHealth or telehealth? What is the next innovation you’d like to see in this field? Leave a comment and let us know!

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About the Author

Marijah Adams-Cleek

Marijah is the resident Blogger and Script Specialist. In high school, she was given the nickname “The Champ” in reference to her ability to “get it done,” no matter what it is. In college, a very persuasive English professor helped her realize that she had a knack for writing which led to a four-year stint as a college English tutor. She now spends her days blogging, collaborating, and breaking into random dance and song.

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