Key Challenges in Mobile Healthcare Implementation

Aman Chaurasia

Mobile healthcare has proved to be an effective way to improve healthcare access, enhance clinician communication, make informed health decisions, and encourage self-health management among patients.

Solutions like telemedicine have enabled doctors to spend more facetime with their patients. Also, mobility benefits both doctors and patients by making the right information accessible at the right time.  

The Global Mobile Health Market Report 2019 estimates that this market is going to reach USD 249.3 billion by 2023, growing at over 33.5% CAGR during 2018-2023. It’s not surprising, given the advantages that mobile health has to offer.

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Source: Pexels

However, it’s not a journey free of hurdles. While the future does look promising for mobile healthcare solutions, healthcare providers will first have to tackle a few key challenges related to their implementation. C

Complexity in System Integration

As much beneficial as mHealth is for both patients and providers, its implementation is more challenging than it may appear. Although mobile phones are ubiquitous and doctors, medical staff, patients, and their family must already be owning them, mobile integration remains to be easier said than done. Healthcare IT infrastructure is already complex with a multitude of systems, applications, devices, and network. Integrating mobility with it could mean placing a new layer of complexity over it.

Many organizations often find it difficult to implement mobile solutions with existing enterprise architecture. It may be because the systems are incompatible, the IT team isn’t ready, or the process is too complex to allocate organizational limited resources. In such a case, an mHealth solution may fail to achieve the goal of offering higher efficiency.

To prevent this situation, providers as well as developers must be aware of these issues. Developers should aim to design applications that are compatible with existing systems and don’t require a lot of interference with them.  

Interoperability issues

Although digital health has given a great leap to care delivery with innovative software and devices, most of the attention in this domain has largely been on their functionality. Many healthcare organizations have not given due considerations to an important aspect – interoperability. Mobile solutions are no exception here.

Interoperability refers to the ability of different medical systems to communicate with each other and exchange patient health information seamlessly in a protected environment. Interoperability plays a vital role in ensuring the timely availability of accurate data from electronic health records (EHR) so that doctors, clinicians, and patients can make the right health decisions. Organizations leveraging interoperability have found significant success in remote monitoring and chronic disease management.

However, due to inadequate attention on this and various departments working in silos have made it a challenge to access patient data. This has limited the effectiveness of mobile healthcare solutions. Providers must wake up to this challenge and set up a cohesive digital health environment. Interoperability is the key to a holistic care model.

Data Security Risks

Risk of the data breach has always been a grave concern to healthcare organizations. The fact that the mobile systems send and receive data over a wireless network calls for due attention to this concern. For example, when physicians use their own mobile device to exchange sensitive health data, it’s prone to leaking in the absence of adequate security measures. To add to this, although immensely effective, a fully interoperable health ecosystem can possibly augment the risk.

Healthcare security
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To make mHealth a success, providers must keep the required provisions in place. This includes:

  • Setting up firewalls and enabling data encryption
  • Ensuring mHealth and EHR systems are protected according to HIPAA guidelines
  • Formulating a strong BYOD framework
  • Establishing a threat-proof mobile storage and retrieval system
  • Designing a thorough training plan for employees to raise awareness and follow best practices

Data security is an issue which healthcare organizations cannot afford to ignore and mHealth is even more susceptible to this risk. The absence of a robust security infrastructure can not only pose a serious risk but also result in loss of trust and failure to realize mHealth benefits.

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Failure in Patient Engagement

With healthcare consumerism gaining popularity, the expectations of patients from providers are evolving. Digital and mobile health are parts of the new set of expectations. In the meantime, it has also been observed that only a few mHealth solutions retain the interest of patients after initial adoption. The major reason behind this is that most of the solutions fail to engage users for long.

Today, patients want to be actively involved in their treatment plan and make informed decisions regarding their health. This has started to determine the success of care delivery. That’s why patients expect mHealth to offer them transparency with respect to their interaction with their doctors. However, a majority of mobile solutions don’t live up to this expectation and patient engagement ends up going down.  

To boost patient engagement, mobile solutions should be developed with a key goal in mind that they should be able to provide patients with complete information about their health and treatment.

Unsatisfactory User Experience

Today, patients are also increasingly involved in the care cycle. And since almost everyone uses a mobile phone, mHealth has great prospects of user adoption. But at the same time, it’s crucial to take into consideration that user adoption can only increase if the applications are easy to use. People are prone to give up on an application if they don’t find simplicity in its usage.

What makes the situation even more challenging is the fact that every patient has unique health requirements. So, they may be using an app on a variety of mobile phones and medical devices such as wearables and blood-pressure machine. Any application which isn’t quite friendly to use will only frustrate the users.

That’s why developers should think of giving the app an intuitive interface and user-friendly navigation. There must be a due focus on user-experience and patient education on how to use the apps.

Need for Customization

Not all healthcare organizations are the same. All work on different scales and have different operations, network configurations, and security needs. Hence, they have specific expectations from their mobile systems. Therefore, every mobile healthcare solution may not be the right fit for every organization.

That’s why, providers should opt for custom cloud environments while designing their mobility strategy. A cloud-based mobile system will not only assure of seamless mobility but it will also reduce the complexities involved in integrating mobility with existing IT environment.

Unreliable Solutions

All the functionalities of a mobile solution can go futile if it’s not reliable. There can be a couple of issues related to reliability. First, there can be a lack of proper synchronization between mobile and non-mobile systems.

So, the mHealth solution may be unable to operate in the desired manner. Secondly, the app may be a result of insufficient research and planning and may contain inaccurate information which is seemingly correct to the users.

In both the cases, providers should run a thorough technical assessment to ensure the solution is reliable.

Conclusion

It’s true mobile health has the power to transform healthcare model for the better. However, it’s also important to understand the challenges associated with its implementation and how to overcome them. Although these challenges are grave in nature, they’re not impossible to address.

Providers need to focus on retaining the sanctity of data, making apps user-friendly and ensuring interoperability of mHealth apps. Over and above this, they must follow the guidelines set by regulatory authorities.

Once these provisions are in place, mobile health can enhance the performance of healthcare operations, multiplying the benefits to providers and improving patient engagement. At TechJini, we are enabling mHealth with our secure, reliable, and seamless mobile apps. Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions.

about the author

Aman Chaurasia

Aman is a Digital Marketing Executive at TechJini. He frequently writes blogs on IoT, Automation and Digital Transformation.