Mobile Health: benefits for the patient and savings for the system

 May 5, 2014
By Suzanne Hasler

The arrival of mobile technology has brought about an authentic revolution, both in terms of how we communicate and obtain information; completely changing our habits in many areas of our lives. One such alteration has been our relationship with the healthcare system, and even with our own current and potential illnesses.

After years of development in this area, the healthcare system is finally bowing to the evidence; adopting these technologies to take efficiency and quality of service to another level. This would have been unthinkable with the tools of the past, particularly in the current climate of economic crisis and changing demographics. More importantly, more and more patients are benefiting from the advantages of using mobile technology regularly.

Among the many benefits, which can vary according to the particularities of each case, patients enjoy two fundamental advantages of using what is known as mHealth or mobile health. Firstly, they are able to access relevant information about their current state or illness as and when required. This has a direct impact on patient safety, adherence to treatment, independence, and trust in healthcare professionals.   

The second main advantage for users is communication at any time and place; not only with those in charge of their welfare, such as healthcare professionals, but also with other patients in a similar situation. The importance of direct communication with healthcare professionals is evident, but contact with other users can also prove very helpful. Indeed, sharing experiences, being part of a group and the feeling that you are not fighting an illness alone, have a very positive effect on the treatment outcome.  

However, it is not all about reducing hospital admissions or increasing prevention. These factors help develop patient empowerment, which allows people to become aware of their own state of health, in turn reinforcing treatment success. What is more, it represents a great opportunity for the healthcare system; something which for years has been regarded as a separate entity from citizens. Thus, the possibility of interactively generating ideas for improvement, patients being aware of their rights and able to express what they like or not; advancing trends through studies carried out with the totality of users; all constitute the prelude to the ultimate democratization of the healthcare system. The result will be a system that can use all of this knowledge and evaluate the services it provides, to improve its efficiency without increasing costs. 

Recently, the European Commission has joined this revolution. From now until July, it will carry out a public consultation to gather ideas about how to boost the mobile health sector and improve its security, with the objective of moving towards a modern, efficient and sustainable healthcare system. It is estimated that by deploying the full potential of mobile health applications, healthcare costs in the EU could be cut by 99.000 million Euros by 2017. Aware of the expansion of smartphones and other mobile devices, from Brussels they wish to define the standards which must guarantee information security, reliability concerning health issues and application performance.

Mobile Health is making way for improved healthcare thanks to technology, the knowledge of healthcare professionals and the collaboration of users themselves. We cannot let the opportunity to maximize its benefits pass us by.