3 in 10 Americans Interested in Tracking Health Records Via Mobile Phone
Posted: Sep 09, 2010
Three in ten Americans reported they would use their cell or smart phone to track and monitor their personal health, and 40 percent would be willing to pay for a remote monitoring device that sends health information directly to their doctor, according to a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute.

Researchers say the study results reflect the nascent but fast-growing market for remote and mobile health and significant business opportunities for organizations using consumer technologies to support preventative, acute and chronic care.

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ research includes a nationwide survey of 2,000 consumers and 1,000 physicians regarding their use and preferences for remote and mobile health services and devices.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers report outlines three emerging business models for companies looking to capitalize on mobile health, including: development of consumer products and services; operational and clinical support, and infrastructure that focuses on security, speed and integration of information.

“Remote and mobile technology is making it possible to move healthcare delivery outside the traditional settings of physician offices and hospitals to wherever patients are. It’s bringing back the concept of doctors making house calls,” said Daniel Garrett, leader of the health information technology practice, PricewaterhouseCoopers. “New consumer-oriented business models and technologies are emerging. Companies that will be well positioned competitively are those than can integrate mobile health into healthcare delivery and create value in the health system by helping doctors and their patients better manage health and wellness through mass personalization.”

The survey found:

  • Thirty-one percent of consumers said they would be willing to incorporate an application into their existing cell phone or smart phone to be able track and monitor their personal health information.
  • Forty percent of consumers said they would be willing to pay for a device and a monthly subscription fee for a mobile phone application that would send text and e-mail reminders to take their medications, refill prescriptions or to access their medical records and track their health. Twenty-seven percent of consumers said they would find medication reminders sent via text to be helpful, and men are twice as likely as women to say they would use a mobile device for health-related reminders.
  • Forty percent of consumers would also be willing to pay for a remote monitoring device and a monthly subscription that would send data automatically to their doctor health information such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar and weight.
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute estimates the annual consumer market for remote/mobile monitoring devices and services to be $7.7 billion to $43 billion, based on the range consumers said they would be willing to pay.
  • Fifty-six percent of consumers say they like the idea of remote healthcare, and 41 percent would prefer to have more of their care delivered via a mobile device.
  • Physicians agree that patient compliance with doctor recommendations is a major obstacle to managing health outcomes, and 88 percent of physicians said they would like their patients to be able to track and/or monitor their health at home, particularly their weight, blood sugar levels and vital signs.
  • Fifty-seven percent of physicians said they would like to use remote devices to monitor the patients outside of the hospital. Physicians, however, want to see filtered information or exceptions in their patient’s health, not all the data all the time. Too much information could actually slow down care.

Much of the momentum behind mobile health to date has been from companies outside traditional healthcare, such as technology and telecommunications companies looking to expand their footprint in the health industries, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Yet when asked who they would prefer to receive mobile health services from, consumers ranked their healthcare provider, hospital or health system as number one, followed by their health insurer.

“There are significant opportunities for physicians, hospitals, health insurers, pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers to market and differentiate themselves using mobile health,” added Garrett. “Yet many healthcare organizations are largely ignoring the opportunity to integrate mobile health into other IT efforts such as the implementation of electronic health records.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers research found:

  • Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of physicians surveyed said they are using personal devices for mobile health solutions that aren’t connected to their practice or hospital IT systems, and 30 percent said their hospital or practice leaders will not support the use of mobile health devices.
  • Of those physicians who are using mobile devices in their practice, 56 percent said the devices expedite decision making and nearly 40 percent said the use of mobile devices decreases time spent on administration.
  • The top challenge physicians said they face in their practice is accessing information where and when it is needed. One-third of physicians surveyed said they currently make decisions based on incomplete information for seven out of ten patients they see. Only half of physicians surveyed currently access electronic medical records while visiting and treating their patients, a situation that will improve with meaningful use requirements for physicians to use interoperable electronic medical records. Physicians agreed that the greatest benefit of mobile health would be to help them make decisions faster by accessing more accurate data in real time.
  • The second biggest challenge for physicians is they don’t have time to interact with patients as much as they would like. Forty-five percent of physicians said that Internet visits would expand access to patients.
  • Forty percent of physicians said they could reduce the number of office visits by 11 to 30 percent by using mobile health technologies like remote monitoring, email or text messaging with patients. Such shifts could address the shortage of physicians, reduce hospital readmission costs and increase access for patients who delay care because they don’t want to wait for an appointment.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers one of the barriers to more rapid adoption of mobile health may be that in-person consultation is still the main basis of reimbursement in healthcare. Public payers and private health insurers, who are primarily responsible for paying for healthcare, have generally not pushed for adoption of mobile health. Nor has the healthcare industry figured out a way to pay for electronic transactions in the way other industries have, such as for music and video downloads.

However researchers say this is changing. A number of health plans are beginning to pay for remote monitoring devices to help reduce hospital readmission costs. Some physicians are now getting limited reimbursement for phone consultations, email consults, telehealth and texting. And nearly half (49 percent) of consumers surveyed said they would be willing to pay out-of-pocket for electronic consultation with their

Infrastructure in the health system also need to be addressed, says PwC researchers. Hospital IT networks are struggling under the need for more bandwidth to support rapidly expanding data transactions and exchanges with the growth of mobile health and electronic medical record.
Share this entry