Three in 10 Americans recently surveyed by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute said 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. Their interest reflects the emerging market for remote and mobile health and significant business opportunities for organizations using consumer technologies to support preventive, acute, and chronic care.
Wireless technology, remote monitoring, and mobile devices are changing the nature of health care, making it possible to deliver care anywhere in ways that keep people healthier and reduce health care costs.
PricewaterhouseCoopers’ research includes a nationwide survey of 2,000 consumers and 1,000 physicians regarding their use of and preferences for remote and mobile health services and devices. 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 in order to track and monitor their personal health information.
- Forty percent said they would pay for a device and a monthly subscription fee for a mobile phone application that would send text and email reminders about medications and prescription refills, or to access their medical records and track their health. Twenty-seven percent of consumers said they would find value in medication reminders sent via text, 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 automatically send such health information as heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight to their doctor.
- The report estimated the annual consumer market for remote/mobile monitoring devices and services at $7.7 billion to $43 billion, based on the range of fees consumers said they would be willing to pay.
- Fifty-six percent of consumers said they like the idea of remote health care; 41 percent would prefer to have more of their care delivered via a mobile device.
- Physicians agreed that patient compliance with doctor recommendations poses a major obstacle to managing health outcomes; 88 percent of physicians said they would like their patients to be able to 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 patients outside of the hospital. Physicians, however, only want to see filtered information or exceptions in their patient’s health.
Much of the momentum behind mobile health care to date has been built by companies outside the traditional health care sector, such as technology and telecommunications companies looking to expand their footprint in the health industry. Yet when asked who they would prefer to receive mobile health services from, consumers ranked their health care provider, hospital, or health system as No. 1, followed by their health insurer.
Despite the significant opportunities for care providers and insurers, many healthcare organizations are largely ignoring the opportunity to integrate mobile health into their technology efforts. PricewaterhouseCoopers research found that:
- 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; 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.
- Physicians said the top challenge they face in their practice is accessing information where and when it is needed. One-third of physicians surveyed said they make decisions based on incomplete information for seven out of 10 patients they see. Only half of physicians surveyed access electronic medical records while visiting and treating their patients.
- 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 allow them to see more patients.
- Forty percent of physicians said they could reduce the number of office visits by 11 to 30 percent by using such mobile health technologies as 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.
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 health care. Public payers and private health insurers, who are primarily responsible for paying for health care, have generally not pushed for adoption of mobile health, nor has the health care industry figured out a way to pay for electronic transactions in the way other industries have, such as for music and video downloads.
But 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, “tele-health,” 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 physicians such as through the Internet, email, or text messaging.