Doctors may be fans of the iPad as a clinical tool, but they’re not certain that Apple’s iPad, the 5000+ health and medical apps in the App Store, or other mobile technologies are safe and effective health tools for patients. That’s the gist of a report by PwC Global Healthcare. The report was based on surveys of physicians, healthcare management professionals and payers, and mobile technology users in ten countries around the world.
According to the report, just under two-thirds (64%) of healthcare providers acknowledged that mobile technologies offer potential benefits for patients, but feel that mobile health (also known as mhealth) is virgin and untested territory. As a result, the majority of doctors (73%) don’t suggest iOS or mobile health apps to their patients and some (13%) even discourage patients from using them.
The reasons for not encouraging mobile health apps cover a variety of territory.
There’s the perception of cost, complexity, and scope of change associated with implementing mobile health solutions and an associated lack of technology systems in many healthcare environments. For example, the survey identified that only 40% of private practices and 63% of public sector offices and hospitals worldwide have wireless connectivity.
Concerns about how patients would use mobile health apps was a common reason for discouraging their use. That breaks down into a handful of issues, including patient compliance with health tools, the ability to ensure their proper use, and a concern that patients would become too independent and avoid regular office visits. That last concern appears to be a very valid point since 59% of mobile health users said iOS apps and other mobile technologies have replaced some visits to doctors or nurses.
Beyond patient use of health apps, concern about industry regulations was the biggest drawback to deploying mobile health solutions followed be the sense that healthcare, as an industry, has a particularly conservative culture. Those are areas that PwC’s Global Healthcare’s Christopher Wasden identified as different between as different between industrialized and developing countries.
The adoption of mobile health in emerging markets versus developed markets is a paradox. In developed markets, mHealth is perceived as disrupting the status quo, whereas in emerging countries it is seen as creating a new market, full of opportunity and growth potential. In younger, developing economies, healthcare is less constrained by healthcare infrastructure and entrenched interests. Consumers are more likely to use mobile devices and mHealth applications, and more payers are willing to cover the cost of mHealth services.
Other interesting points from the study include the following:
- Health administrators and payers are more encouraging of mobile health solutions – 40% approve of such technologies compared to just 25% of doctors.
- Two thirds of people who use health and fitness apps discontinue their use after six months (or earlier).
- Roughly half the population expect mobile health options will improve the convenience (46%), cost (52%) and quality (48%) of healthcare.
- Nearly half of those surveyed expect mobile apps will change the way they manage chronic conditions (48%), medications (48%) and overall health (49%).
- 60% of consumers believe doctors are not as interested in mobile health options as patients and technology companies.