Without a doubt, 2014 will be declared the year mobile became mighty in healthcare. No matter where in the world you live, whether you are talking about patients, consumers, or healthcare providers, mobile is revolutionising the future of healthcare – so much so, that it’s worth taking a closer look at 10 powerful trends emerging throughout the mobile health space. We’ll also be showcasing our findings on mobile health user experience at the Mighty Mobile seminar at the inaugural Cannes Lions Health festival.
1 Increased mobile usage
Every day there are more mobile phones sold than babies born. In fact, mobile (vs TV, desktop computers, print, and radio) is the only medium that is currently growing. Google receives more search queries from mobile devices than ever before. A recent Millward Brown study reports that across 30 countries, people spend an average of 147 minutes a day using a smartphone. And 91% of adults have their mobile device within arm’s reach 24/7. It should come as little surprise, then, that the collecting and sharing of health information through mobile phones is projected to grow exponentially.
Mobile health has become an indispensable part of this hyper-connected world, where physicians and patients alike are prolific mobile adopters. The stats for obtaining health information via mobile are impressive, to say the least, but the key takeaway here is the enormous opportunity to benefit a global population with an endless variety of healthcare needs.
One of the biggest components within mobile health is apps. According to Research2Guidance, there are more than 100,000 mobile health apps in app stores around the world, with more than 4m free downloads every day. By 2017, these app services are projected to reach $26bn (£15bn).
Mobile health apps can be broken into two categories: wellness and medical; 85% of apps are for wellness, designed to be used primarily by the consumer and patient, and the remaining 15% are medical, used by physicians.
Consumer wellness apps fall into a few sub-categories: physical fitness or training, self-measurement (eg pregnancy trackers), health information (predominantly nutrition based), and self-testing (including calorie monitoring or sensor triggering to monitor things such as heart rate). Today, more people than ever before are feeling empowered to take a proactive role in monitoring their health.
Physicians are using apps as an equipment supplement, and advances in mobile sensors are helping them identify potential health problems. The findings can then be geo-located, synced to patient records and shared with partner physicians. Physicians are also tapping into medical apps to record and access patient information on the spot. They are also using apps as disease management and drug administration tools. Medical app regulations continue to be a hot topic within this space: what qualifies as a medical device? How do you weigh safety and reliability considerations, along with the need for a timely approval process?
Leveraging location-based user information through geo-targeting, Near Field Communication and iBeacon technology were popular topics at this year’s Mobile World Congress and South by South West Interactive Conference. Location-based content delivered through methods such as push notifications enable patients and physicians to receive relevant information at the right moment, based on their geo-location. For example, when a patient walks into a waiting room, an iBeacon can deliver relevant patient materials to a patient’s mobile device to discuss with his or her doctor.
This is about you being you – your habits, your likes, and your dislikes. Mobile enables consumers, patients, and physicians to have a more personal, ongoing experience. Technology has the ability to tailor health content according to a patient or healthcare provider’s mobile history and current behaviour. Personalised mobile experiences can initiate direct one-to-one conversations and interactions, and deliver highly relevant information at the right time, based on user preferences. However, for health content providers, it’s important to find the right balance between personalisation and privacy.
5 Wearable technology
Admittedly, wearable technology (wrist bands, glasses and even jewellery) is an offspring of mobile technology but often snycs with devices. This category’s explosive potential for growth in the healthcare space can’t be ignored. Thanks to enhancements in sensors, wearables are starting to go beyond just monitoring and tracking personal wellness to helping diagnose disease. Augmented sensory perception, data streaming, and even bio-imbedded sensors (under the skin) are emerging areas of focus.
6 Video as a constant companion
More and more patients and physicians are viewing video content on the go and using it as an information source for diagnostic, drug purchase, and prescribing decisions. Google’s Screen to Script study noted physicians on average spend three hours per week watching online videos for professional purposes. They view sites such as Medscape and YouTube, followed closely by pharmaceutical company websites. We are also seeing more patients sharing videos, commenting, and following content creators via mobile. The enhanced power of new mobile devices and their hardware are helping to drive this growth.
7 Increased data and analytics
Big data is affecting mobile health in a big way. Better data quality means better health decisions and better patient outcomes. The potential to collect physiological data, contextual data (situation, preferences, and emotions), and usage data can be harnessed to inform purchases, behavioural modification, and prescribing recommendations. Consider this from Forrester Research: 2bn smartphones generate raw data from built-in functions: accelerometers, cameras, and GPS chipsets – creating phenomenal insights about consumer, patient, and physician preferences.
8 Electronic health records
Electronic health records have the ability to create a sea change in healthcare. And now, with mobile access patients and providers have the ability to access health records with greater convenience. For example, care summaries can now be shared between care settings with other providers, through mobile, with ease. Drug and medication interactions can be checked through mobile platforms to ensure patient safety. Healthcare professionals can send patients electronic copies of their health information through smartphones. Patients can also view, download, and transmit their health records via a secure electronic mobile messaging service to their healthcare provider. All thanks to electronic health records with mobile accessibility.
9 Quality content
Pharmaceutical brands and health and wellness products are moving more and more to the “pill plus” model. This means they are developing and offering more relevant content and services for consumers, patients, and healthcare providers to compliment the benefits of their therapy through mobile experiences.
10 Better small-screen design
The fact that more time is being spent on mobile for health information means there is a need for better mobile site design and a more intuitive user experience. There are many screens in many different sizes, which necessitate mobile optimisation, such as responsive design for apps, websites, and display ads. In addition, a design experience that utilises the device capabilities, such as touch, gyroscope, and accelerometer, is becoming increasingly important in making the interaction with health content that much more immersive.
Mobile health has undoubtedly become ubiquitous across our lives and is poised to change the horizon line of the healthcare landscape in a mighty way.
Katie Erbs is Google’s head of rich media for Northern and Central Europe, and Chris Duffey is senior vice president and group creative director at healthcare communications network Sudler & Hennessey