Get ready for some big numbers.
According to research from RAND, the number of Americans living with chronic disease is expected to climb to 157 million by 2020.
What seems to be growing just as quickly is the mobile health app market. Depending on the source, there are anywhere between 40,000 and 100,000 apps available for purchase, and the supply is only going to increase to meet the growing demand. Manhattan Research reports that 95 million US adults currently use mobile health technologies, marking a 27 percent hike from 2012.
Put it all together and you get a market that “will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 61% to reach $26 billion in revenue by 2017,” according to data from Research and Markets, and will no doubt reach its goal of intergalactic domination.
It sounds like a match made in heaven — as Americans’ health diminishes, our love for technology increases. Everybody wins!
There’s just one problem. Although mobile apps do have tremendous potential to help patients more successfully manage their health, there is conflicting information about whether most apps adhere to clinical guidelines, and concerns about the lack of objective research to measure outcomes.
Oh yeah, and there’s one more thing. Individuals with chronic illnesses are less likely than those in the general population to have Internet access or a mobile phone (Pew Internet Project). The coolest app in the world isn’t going to make a difference to a 56-year-old diabetes patient who doesn’t own an iPhone.
So what’s a hospital to do if some of the best tools available aren’t making it into the hands of their patients? Think outside the bed. In a recent interview, Mitzi Cardenas, senior VP and CIO at Truman Medical Centers (TMC), talked about how the organization is leveraging its community outreach program to improve health among its patient population.
“We’re out in the communities all the time. We’re working with the churches. We’re working with community and civic leaders,” she said. In addition to setting up a farmer’s market in the summer, TMC has a mobile market that provides fresh fruits and vegetables to those living in the designated food desert. They’re also building a grocery store.
“From a population health perspective, we’re looking at making the community better — really getting to the core of some of our chronic diseases and providing the kinds of basic nutrition that people need and have challenges getting in a lot of areas.”
Although Cardenas does believe IT can play a role in improving chronic disease management, adding that the organization hopes to eventually utilize technology to track patients’ progress, she believes that changing peoples’ health starts with going outside the four walls of the hospital and reaching out to patients.
I couldn’t agree more. There is most certainly a place for technology in helping people to better monitor conditions like diabetes and asthma and ensure they’re living a healthy lifestyle, but to think that technology holds all the answers is simply foolish. No matter how gaudy the numbers might be.