mHealth survey results point to formalization of mobile health policies

If small medical practices take their cue from larger healthcare organizations, expect growth in the use of mHealth technology – and the policies that would govern such usage. According to the HIMSS 2012 Mobile Technology Survey, which collected responses from 180 C-suite healthcare executives, mHealth will dramatically alter the way healthcare services are delivered in the future.

Results of the study, co-sponsored by HIMSS and Qualcomm Life, were released Dec. 3 at the 2012 mHealth Summit in Washington, D.C.

Jennifer Horowitz, senior director of research for HIMSS Analytics, and Anthony Shimkin, senior director of marketing for Qualcomm Life, said the survey’s primary goals were to gauge how mHealth technology use has changed since a similar study was conducted in 2011, as well as how federal regulations have impacted the development of mobile health policies at healthcare organizations.

In broad terms, the most dramatic change over the past year has been the jump in the number of organizations that have mobile health policies in place. In 2011, only 38 percent of respondents said their organizations had developed such policies, but this year two-thirds of respondents had policies in place.

As for the two-thirds of respondents who predicted the sweeping impact of mHealth technology moving forward, the two primary areas for which that impact was projected were pharmacy management – in particular medication adherence – and the continuum of care.

On the latter point, Shimkin pointed to surveys indicating that 10 percent of the population now receives care via accountable care organizations of one type or another, and those arrangements rely to a significant extent on the effective use of mobile technology.

“The key lesson,” he said, “is that these technologies are beginning to take hold” and are clearly effecting change.

In addition to the broad view, the survey also looked at the specific types of technology for which policies are being developed. For example, 95 percent of respondents said they have policies in place for laptop use, 79 percent for smartphone use and 57 percent for the use of tablets designed for healthcare.

Despite the clear enthusiasm for mHealth technology on the part of both healthcare executives and providers, one area still lagging, the survey found, concerned the use of such technologies by patients. For example, only 36 percent of respondents said their patients were plugged into mHealth technology.

On the other hand, 82 percent of those surveyed pointed to improved access to personal health information as a top benefit to mHealth technology, while 76 percent also noted similar benefits for providers who want to access reference information.

The full survey is available on the mHIMSS website.

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