The benefits of using mHealth in the UK:
mHealth or “mobile health” includes the use of all portable devices like tablets, PDAs and phones to support healthcare related activities. Phones and tablets are the main focus when developing mHealth solutions, with the former device being mostly directed to the patient population, and the latter towards healthcare practitioners (HCPs).
Government plans in the UK are to bring more care into the community and out of the hospitals using interventions like mHealth. Healthcare needs to become more “predictive, preventative, precise and personal” – argues Eric Dishman, Intel Fellow & general manager of Intel’s Health Strategy & Solutions Group in the US. The usual practice of medicine needs to shift towards a “value-based” personalised business model and away from its current one.
Value-based medicine (VBM) “is the practice of medicine based upon the patient-perceived value conferred by an intervention. VBM starts with the best evidence-based data and converts it to patient value-based data, so that it allows clinicians to deliver higher quality patient care than EBM alone”. [Epidemiology and Health. 2015]
This is about cost saving and reducing waste whilst still providing better quality of care and can only be done when patients are at the centre of their care paths, taking a more active part in the management of their own health.
To this end, mHealth and in particular, the use of mobile phones (of all kinds – not just Smartphones), which are owned by almost everyone, places the opportunities for companies and government health agencies, etc. to offer effective solutions right into the hands of the patients themselves.
Services on offer range from simple text reminders, phone/skype calls/telemedicine systems to reach and interact with HCPs, to more complex disease management systems; sharing of guidelines; targeted advice based on genomic-phenomic data; social-networked support and portable diagnostic tools on a personalised level. So called “care anywhere”, “care networking” and “care customisation” are the catchy terms bouncing around the digital health environment, as outlined by Dishman from across the pond.
According to Healthcare UK, described as a “vital partner in global health”, a joint venture between the NHS, the UK Department of Health and UKTI (UK Trade and Investments), Digital Health and particularly mHealth initiatives will see a potential increase in use in the UK in both public and private sectors.
The biggest advantage of developing mHealth solutions is patient empowerment and according to the Healthcare UK report, it is this return of “control” back over to patients that is the major driving force for mHealth initiatives focusing on personalised precision medicine. These, and the addition of preventative and predictive functionalities, can also tap into improving health on a population level by allowing for the capture of “Big Data”.
On the other hand, mHealth apps share an already flooded market with consumer apps. There needs to be a more formalized system that regulates mobile apps with healthcare functionality in order to ensure the safety of patients. Though the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK and NHS England have overall oversight for regulating mobile apps, the guidelines and levels of monitoring are still not clearly defined.
Overall though, offered in the right way, mHealth solutions can assist in chronic illness management – the greatest burden on health and finances. There will be a greater shift towards preventative and predictive interventions even more, as these can be targeted more precisely to cater for specific patient needs.
Additionally, more effective mHealth tools will be developed to support workflows for clinical practitioners, thus reducing the time and cost of healthcare delivery, whilst increasing the efficiency overall, in line with the VBM model mentioned earlier.
These will all be necessary requirements for the future of the NHS and for the future of a sustainable healthcare system that our children deserve to inherit.