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Tag Archives: mHealth

Millennials are Shaping the Future of Health Apps

What comes to mind when you think of millennials? Are you reminded of stereotypes about this generation’s apathy? Self-serving nature? Tendency to be too self-involved? While the validity of these stereotypes is debatable, what you may not associate with millennials is their role as leaders of our nation’s health and wellness culture, particularly when it comes to mobile health (mHealth) apps.  This burgeoning segment of the population is investing more time and energy into mHealth apps than any other in the country.  In fact, studies find that Americans aged 25-34 are clearly the most frequent users of mHealth apps and that female millennials specifically spend 200% more time on health and fitness apps than all other users. In short, millennials can be considered the driving force behind mHealth apps.

FitClick

FitClick

For this generation, interest in mHealth apps stems largely from an increased interest in improving overall health and well-being. According to a recent study, 66% of college students now regularly monitor their calorie intake, while 69% monitor their sugar intake. What’s more, now 50% want as much quantifiable data about their health as possible. This new, heightened interest explains in part why millennials are so attracted to technologies that allow them to access detailed information about their own health.

In addition, they are also attracted to mHealth apps more than other segments of the population because they’re digital natives. Millennials have grown up in a world in which data is abundant and instantly accessible, and so technology that allows real-time access to health information, such as mobile calorie trackers, stands out as more advantageous than other “analog” health improvement options.

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Millennials are also uniquely inclined to use mHealth apps because most entered adulthood in the midst of an economic recession, and have since developed views about spending that have earned them the nickname, “The Cheapest Generation.”  While their parents may be investing in $200 juicers and a slew of fitness DVDs, millennials are seeking out inexpensive options to health and fitness like mobile apps, many of which can be downloaded for free.

What’s more, millennials also prioritize convenience and expediency. They’re fast-paced, often overscheduled individuals who aren’t as likely to slow down for things like manually counting calories or monitoring levels of physical activity throughout the day.  A mHealth app that’s always on hand and offers some level of automation is therefore the millennial’s ideal solution.

Mobile health apps are expected to exceed $3 billion in global sales by 2019, and already maintain approximately 60 million American users. There are also over 100,000 apps on Google Play and Apple’s iOS app store, a quantity that’s doubled in just 2.5 years. Given that millennials are the most active segment of health app users, and that they’ll soon surpass baby boomers in terms of consumer purchasing power, we can only expect that going forward, health apps will be tailored to millennial preferences.

Specifically, we can expect that mHealth apps will significantly expand in their breadth of function. Mobile apps of the future will focus on tracking even more specific fitness and nutrition information to satisfy the millennial’s penchant for quantifiable data, and will therefore be viewed as a more comprehensive and long-term solution to monitoring and improving health.

As mHealth apps improve their ability to track more data, they’ll also be better positioned as a valuable resource for patient-doctor discussions. There’s already talk of how health care services are (and will continue to be) leveraged in a digital or mHealth environment; advanced mHealth apps may figure as natural supplements to this forthcoming digital doctor-patient interaction that helps put patients at the center of care. Ultimately, we can expect to witness a transition in which health apps become resources that aid patient discussions about health.

Additionally, we should also expect mHealth apps to focus on automation. How can nutrition and fitness tracking be made instantaneous? Because millennials are all about ease of use, apps that minimize a user’s time and effort will thrive. Already apps like FitClick’s Talk-to-Track App are making headway by allowing users the ability to simply state what they eat to track calories and nutrition, rather than manually type in food items and quantities or scroll through long lists of options.

Finally, don’t be surprised if mHealth apps integrate more social components that make tracking nutrition and fitness a more communal experience with new opportunities for peer connection. Social networking continues to influence even the most unlikely of consumer markets, and because long-term nutrition and fitness tracking largely depends on sustained motivation, a social component could offer millennials the right type of motivation to ensure they maintain interest in their health and wellness goals.

Ultimately, we can expect that health care will be significantly shaped by the development of technologies like mHealth apps, and that these technologies will reflect the priorities of their most ardent users, millennials.

Are you a Millennial using health and fitness apps to stay healthier? Tell us about your favorites in the comments.

 

Need a Doctor? There’s about a Hundred Apps for That

Remember when the only personal device people had to monitor their health was the trusty old bathroom scale, and maybe a blood pressure cuff they could use at their local pharmacy? What a difference a decade makes.

Linda Barlow

Linda Barlow

An explosion of personal, wearable, or otherwise easily accessible devices and apps used to track activity and fitness levels, monitor health problems, and even diagnose disease is well underway. In fact, more than 360 health and biotech (and nearly 390 fitness and sports) apps and products were exhibited at January’s International CES® in Las Vegas, including a new wave of trackers, online tools, wristbands and apps that collect your vital signs for medical purposes.

“Consumers now have more of an opportunity than ever to take control of their own health through technology,” says Kinsey Fabrizio, director, Member Engagement, Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®. “There is a real convergence of technology in health and wellness, and with design advancements, improving tech and widespread adoption of mobile devices, consumer-centric care is now possible.”

According to Ms. Fabrizio, one of the hottest trends in personal health and fitness technology is devices that link to smartphones. One example of such a device is a fertility sensor from CES exhibitor Prima-Temp: a self-inserted, wireless temperature sensor that continuously and passively tracks a woman’s core body temperature, detecting the subtle changes that occur before ovulation, then sends an alert to her smartphone when she is most fertile. According to the company, understanding reproductive health and natural fertility signs can help couples avoid costly infertility treatments.

Another example comes from another CES exhibitor, Qardio: a wireless blood pressure monitor that offers a full year of battery life for 400 measurements versus the 80 available in typical monitors. The company claims the device—compatible with both iOS and Android—is the only wireless monitor that can track irregular heartbeats over time, providing users with warnings that they should consider contacting a doctor if the irregularity continues.

Wearable technology like fitness trackers, smart watches, and even pain relief technology also took center stage at CES. During a CES presentation, “The Potential of Wearable Technology,” CEA Director of Business Intelligence, Jack Cutts, pointed out that fitness trackers, “have made wearable tech mainstream, and that the newest generation of smart watches are more refined and are becoming the go-to wearable device.” Looking to the future, he said “other wearable technologies, such as smart fabrics and implantable devices, are still being explored.”

Ms. Fabrizio notes that healthcare technology also has become critical to aging in place, as evidenced by several exhibitors highlighting “lifelong tech” solutions that help seniors stay in touch electronically with providers, family members, emergency responders and other caregivers. One example is CES exhibitor MobileHelp, a mobile medical alert system that uses GPS medical alarm location technology to pinpoint the user’s exact location, so the closest available emergency responders are dispatched no matter where the user travels.

Some in the healthcare field—including attendees of CES’s Digital Health Conference—have raised concerns, not only about the privacy of patient data as it streams through the Internet and resides in the cloud, but also that people’s reliance on health and medical devices and apps will push the professional healthcare practitioner out of the equation. Some worry that no self-diagnosis technology can replace the in-person treatment available at a practitioner’s office, while others point to the ability of technology to increase the value and productivity of physicians.

Ms. Fabrizio adds that device and app makers are looking to help shape the future of digital health with products people can access easily. To that end, CEA, which represents 2,000 companies, formed a Health and Fitness Technology Division last year. The goal of the Division is to raise consumer awareness of how consumer electronic devices can help improve health and fitness as well as help manufacturers navigate the marketing, regulatory and myriad other challenges facing this nascent marketing segment.

“These CEA members are making products that are seamless with what people already do,” Ms. Fabrizio concludes. “They are more than fun; they provide valuable data that drives healthier behavior and preventive health benefits.”

Are consumer apps and devices for tracking health and fitness helping you improve your health? Share your opinion in the comments section.

A Leap Forward for Virtual Health Care

Have you ever sat in a doctor’s office waiting room wishing your physician could have visited you at home? In many states, physicians can now conduct evaluations directly through your laptop, smart phone, or tablet, and patients are responding with enthusiasm.

Roy Schoenberg, MD, MPH

Roy Schoenberg, MD, MPH

However, medical boards in some states have adhered to older rules that prevent use of telemedicine. A recent development will balance their legitimate concerns about abuse of this technology with its immense benefits, enabling states to realize the promise of telehealth in possibly reducing health care costs and improving patient outcomes.

In April, the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) adopted new policy guidelines for the safe practice of telemedicine. States finally have a basic roadmap for ensuring that patients are protected in this fast-changing health care delivery environment. The new guidelines provide much-needed clarity on “Do’s and Don’ts” in the use of telehealth technology when practicing medicine and frame the principles of operation that must be adhered to in order to preserve patient safety and quality of care. They offer a detailed framework needed to revise outdated rules. I expect many state medical boards to tailor the guidelines to meet their own perspectives and cultures moving forward, but as a whole, health care will take these new rules as sign of the times and modernize to embrace telehealth.

In an event such as this, it is important to take a step back and acknowledge history in the making. The unanimous ratification of these new guidelines is probably the strongest message the house of delegates of the FSMB could have sent; decisive leadership such as this is impressive and rare. Telehealth adoption will come when people gain clarity that it is a safe and valuable way to deliver care; the FSMB has done a terrific job in preparing the landscape for large-scale use of telehealth.

The fact that the FSMB did not make any changes to the definition of telehealth is not an oversight. In fact, on the contrary, it is a reflection of the great diversity in this technology. Ten years ago, telemedicine was only a construct between physicians. Today, we have telehealth with multiple end points between patients, mobile health, wearable devices, home biometrics, health care kiosks, e-visits of sorts, etc. The FSMB tried to keep definitions very high-level in order to prevent these important guidelines from becoming obsolete over time, as many other guidelines and rules have before.

There are still barriers to the widespread adoption of telehealth. State licensure of physicians limits how helpful the technology can be to spread health care services to where they are challenged. Reimbursement by Medicare and Medicaid is essentially nonexistent, mostly because of the unknown impact on future costs. Physicians are still afraid they will be sanctioned if they don’t examine a patient in-person. There are more examples like these. The good news is that these barriers are quickly eroding. Most importantly, patients – our industry’s main customer – love telehealth.

In the end, the people will prove stronger than the industry’s outdated rules, and the floodgates will open. In ten more years, the term telehealth will be gone, and this technology will simply be an integrated part of mainstream health care.

Please share your perspective in the comments section below.

Taking the Digital Leap Saves Community $20+ Million in Preventable Health Care Costs

Hospitalizations dropped by almost 3,000 people over a two-year period in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, thanks to a variety of quality changes and investments in electronic health records (EHR). This tool collects and shares critical health information about individual patients and populations across health care settings.

The nearly 11 percent drop in hospitalizations for common cardiovascular conditions (diabetes, high blood pressure, heart failure and angina) was reported in the 10th Community Health Checkup by Better Health Greater Cleveland, a regional health improvement collaborative that works with health care systems, health plans and employers to foster quality health care that’s more affordable.

Why does this decline matter? Because it shows that through efficient use of EHR, primary care is getting better in this community and has implications for advancing the quality of patient-centered care across health systems.

The report demonstrates that practices leveraging EHR are finding that they can more effectively measure care and identify opportunities to enhance service as a result: “The changes are helping people change the course of their health, and they’re adding up to measurable impact on the community – in health, care and cost.”

Better Health also notes that EHR makes a huge impact for the better when it comes to health outcomes for patients: “We have documented large differences between our EHR- and paper-based systems in terms of achievement and improvement of our standards in diabetes and high blood pressure.”

Indeed, a 2011 paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine confirms this trend, finding a 35 percent higher achievement for composite care standards for diabetes patients treated by practices using EHR compared with practices using paper-based systems. EHR sites were also associated with a 10 percent greater improvement of care and a 4 percent improvement among outcomes.

“EHRs have been well shown to improve patient safety, especially through e-prescriptions and clinical decision support,” says Dr. Tim Kowalski, President, Health Action Council Quality Forum. “They also help to improve care coordination via medication reconciliation, enhancing the exchange of health information and through the use of patient registries. And, they help to reduce redundancy via awareness of previous evaluations and various test results.”

Dr. Kowalski adds: “As health care purchasers we are demanding that health care providers demonstrate quality improvement, customer experience improvement and cost-effective care when we consider which provider groups to feature to our employees and their dependents. As we move from a world of fee for service payment to population health outcome-based compensation, this will become increasingly important.”

Have you seen examples – beyond those demonstrated by Better Health – where care is improved and costs are reduced when EHR are incorporated in the system? Tell us more.

Categories: Cost-Savings