One of the hottest topics to hit the campaign trail this year is healthcare. Both Democrats and the GOP have spent time discussing the sustainability of President Obama’s universal healthcare system (Affordable Care Act), spurring much political debate along the way. However, what you haven’t heard any of the presidential candidates talk about is mobile technology, and how smartphones could be the key to revolutionizing our crippled healthcare system.
A Booming Industry
This year, at the Mobile World Conference and South by Southwest Interactive Conference, people were talking about mobile technology and healthcare—and they weren’t just talking about new jogging apps and calorie calculators. More than 100,000 mobile health apps are in app stores worldwide; it is estimated that by 2017, these apps will reach a combined total value of $26 billion. If apps are any indication of smartphone users’ interests, it’s clear that healthcare and wellness are fast becoming a priority in the online mobile space.
Improving healthcare in the mobile age isn’t just about people and their phones; it’s about streamlining cumbersome administrative costs and adding much-needed transparency to insurance. This is where a lot of the current debate stems from—financial missteps that have cost the American public its peace of mind. However, these worries might soon have a solution.
Better Technology, Improved Treatment
One of the greatest challenges faced by our healthcare system today is the lack of resources we have to treat one of our largest aging populations: baby boomers. These individuals will need better access to healthcare, and they’re going to need more of it, as they get older. Mobile technology could greatly reduce the strain of this burden by offering patients more access to their physicians, as well as reducing administrative costs with automated reminders for appointments, prescription refills, emergency services and more, all available via text.
Reducing administrative costs will also be achieved by streamlining communications among patients, providers, and insurance companies. Digitalized communications, as well as electronic records, will reduce the time it takes to receive services. Electronic healthcare records will also allow physicians to offer more personalized care. Increased data and analytics can provide contextual clues about patient behavior that doctors have never had access to. This is especially true in developing areas of the world, where healthcare is often limited.
Advancements in mobile technology, including Near Field Communication (NFC), iBeacon technology, and geo targeting are tools that we can use at home and abroad to improve healthcare on a global scare. Take text messaging, for example: SMS has already been used in several studies to help manage the treatment of diseases like diabetes. It’s also helped patients kick bad habits like smoking and combat maternal and child mortality rates in countries like Rwanda. We may take SMS text for granted, but when healthcare is severely lacking, it could be the only lifeline available.
This is a reality that Penn State Associate Professor Richard Lomotley knows all to well. In 2015, Lomotley lost a family member living in rural Ghana to a snakebite.
“It shouldn’t happen when information about symptoms and emergency instructions [is] only a fingertip away,” said Lomotley.
But it does happen, all the time.
Mobile technology is going to give us the tools we need to revolutionize the medical industry, in ways we can’t yet predict. From wearable technology and better user experiences, to real-time monitoring of sick patients, mobile technology should be at the center of the political discussion.