Pathology groups and clinical laboratories have opportunity to use mHealth to add value to clinicians
Experts predict that healthcare’s use of mobile apps—now being described as mHealth—will evolve into a distinct and primary information channel that will play a significant role in clinical care. This includes how anatomic and clinical pathologists use laboratory medicine to support clinical care.
“[M]obile is a technology that winds its way through everything we’re doing and we’re planning to do,” declared Bryan Sivak, Chief Technology Officer at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), in a recent story published in Modern Healthcare (MH).”[It is] a channel to deliver content… a great way for us to collect more real-time information and connect physicians and patients with each other.”
The mHealth Market Growing at Accelerating Pace
According to New York-based market research firm, GlobalData, the worldwide mobile healthcare market in 2011 was around $1.2 billion, the MH reporter wrote. By 2018, it is poised to hit $11.8 billion.
GlobalData estimated the 2011 U.S. mobile healthcare market at $660 million—or about half the global market. Software and services accounted for 80% of that. Clinicians use roughly 30% of currently-available healthcare apps to access or analyze patient information.
Cambridge, Massachusetts-based health IT market research firm, Chilmark Research, estimated the U.S. 2012 market for mHealth tools and applications used by both physicians and patients at $8.3 million. They predict this market will double in 2013 and quadruple in 2014. They estimate that, by 2017, the market will exceed $1 billion.
Despite these rosy growth estimates, there are some impediments to the mHealth industry. “The main barriers are not the technology,” stated David Levy, M.D., Global Leader for Healthcare at PwC. Instead, he declared, they come from the healthcare industry’s “inherent resistance to change.”
Mobile Technology to Become Integral Part of Healthcare
Levy observed that mHealth is more than just an add-on to the healthcare industry. “[We see it as] the future of healthcare, deeply integrated into delivery that will be better, faster, less expensive and far more customer-focused,” he stated.
There is already plenty of competition for mHealth market share, according to Lee Perlman, President of GNYHA Ventures, Inc. GNYHA is a for-profit subsidiary of the Greater New York Hospital Association. The company developed a mobile health service platform called Happtique. Features of the new platform include:
- a mobile app management software system that will enable providers to control mobile app user access to their electronic health record systems (EHR); and,
- a catalogue of apps that will allow hospitals and other providers to brand and sell apps they have developed in-house.
In April, there were an estimated 5,200 medical professional apps registered with Apple’s App Store. That’s according to Cambridge, Massachusetts-based mobile health market research company, MobiHealthNews. Developers typically release counterparts for both iPhone and Android systems at about the same time, according to founder and Managing Editor Brian Dolan. “[I]f it’s in the Android store, it’s almost certainly in the Apple store,” Dolan noted.
Clinical laboratories that are developing mHealth apps that can be used by client physicians will want to recognize that some doctors want to use their own smart phones in their clinical practice. In fact, allowing medical staffers to use their own mobile devices for work is where the momentum is, according to Eric Westerlind, Senior Research Director for KLAS Enterprises. KLAS is a health IT market research firm based in Orem, Utah. “[A] large majority of providers are dealing with ‘bring your own device,’” observed Westerlind. Apple devices account for 93% of mobile program usage. Android-based systems account for 49%.
This mHealth trend reinforces the dominant role that feature-rich informatics will play in allowing providers, including pathology groups and clinical laboratories, to deliver added value to physicians, patients, and payers. Consequently, every clinical laboratory organization should be looking at this trend and developing its own mHealth strategy.
—Pamela Scherer McLeod
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