Economist mobile health

If you read Health Tech Insider often, you may be aware that we are huge fans of the potential for wearable and mobile Health Tech devices to make a positive impact on the cost and quality of healthcare. Now we’re getting enough data points to bring the point home in an impressive way. The Economist Intelligence Unit has released a new report, “Power to the patient: How mobile technology is transforming healthcare.”

One particularly impressive aspect of the report is the chapter on case studies. For example, the report cites a program by Northern Arizona Healthcare that studied how mobile health might improve care and cut costs for rural populations. This area has a population density of just four people per square kilometer, living hours away from the nearest hospital or health clinic. 50 patients with congestive heart failure (along with other chronic conditions in many cases) were given devices that monitored their vital signs. For those without electricity, they also received solar panels and batteries to power the devices. As a result of this program, the average number of days in a hospital per patient fell from 14 to just 5. This represents a savings of $90,000 per person in the program! That will buy a lot of solar panels and mobile health equipment. Another case study shows how sending text messages to smartphones helped subjects in New Zealand quit smoking at twice the rate of those who didn’t get the reminders (28% vs. 13%).

The dark side of the report is that while physicians and healthcare workers see great potential for mobile health devices and services, more than half of those surveyed were concerned about data privacy issues. As we see more and more information about how difficult it is to secure data and to “anonomize” records, these professionals may have good reason for their concerns.