The Impact of Mobile Devices & BYOD on Healthcare Today and Tomorrow

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Mobile devices offer a great deal of convenience as well as nearly unlimited applicability to patients, physicians and medical professionals. Due to the rapid adoption of tablets and smartphones in commercial and personal settings, many physicians, nurses and clinicians began using their personal mobile devices in healthcare practice settings — referred to as the "bring your own device" phenomenon.

This phenomenon — coupled with mobile health in general — has already permanently impacted the industry. For instance, the mobility of patient data is a leading factor in data breaches, and as a result, the industry has had to adapt security measures and protocols to combat the new threat. However, this is not the only changes resulting from mHealth.

Here Chris Wasden, managing director in PwC's U.S. Healthcare Strategy and Innovation Practice, discusses how the healthcare industry has changed and will continue changing in 2013 and beyond, as a result of the proliferation of personal mobile devices in practice settings.

1. Faster technology adoption. The BYOD phenomenon has been a transformative force, pushing the healthcare industry toward more innovative information technology at a faster rate than ever before.

"The rule of thumb is that healthcare IT is one to two decades behind other industries in technology adoption. While healthcare is still behind other industries, the rapid adoption of mHealth among providers has cut the lag time to half what it has traditionally been," says Mr. Wasden. "We've seen the most rapid rate of adoption in the history of healthcare."

Part of the surge comes from the democracy mobile devices offer physicians in their IT systems. According to Mr. Wasden, in the past, physicians had almost no say in the IT of the institution they worked for. That characteristic slowed the industry's adoption of IT, but with mobile technology, this has changed. "Physicians and nurses adopted mHealth on the ground level. It was not pushed by management or executives so they embraced it," says Mr. Wasden.

2. Healthcare services in a space instead of place. According to Mr. Wasden, mHealth has transformed healthcare from services done in a place to services done in a space.

"The vast majority of services in medicine can be practiced in a mobile format. With the mobility that new technologies offer, patients and physicians can interact in a new virtual space — their home, car or on the road," says Mr. Wasden.

With some health insurance companies willing to pay for virtual healthcare, services are being mobilized to meet the patients outside of the clinic or the hospital. "We can't separate mobile from health anymore," says Mr. Wasden.

3. Popularity and prescription of health apps. According to Mr. Wasden, once there is a platform technology in place like a tablet or a smartphone, it changes the practice of medicine. Mobile devices are the infrastructure for mobile apps, and as mobile devices increasingly saturate healthcare, the industry will see growth in applications that rely on those devices, he says.  
"In the United Kingdom, the government has made specific recommendations to physicians that, when appropriate, they should prescribe an app to a patient instead of an in-person office visit. Some may argue that this is easier in the U.K. due to the nature of the system. However, this is coming to the United States as well," says Mr. Wasden. "I have a preventative cardiologist who prescribed apps for me to use in preventing cardiovascular disease. He can monitor my use of the app to see what I eat and what I do in regards to preventative activity."

Using mobile apps, physicians can engage patients in preventative care. The patient may see health differences by tracking their diet and activity. In addition, physicians can see a lack of activity in the app through sensors. "Individuals are more compliant when they know they are being monitored," says Mr. Wasden.  

Although the portability of devices can threaten the security and privacy of health information, there are also a great deal of benefits stemming from mHealth and BYOD. With the right security protocols, the healthcare industry stands to improve innovation in technologies, expand access to more patients and witness patients more engaged in their own health. The impact of mHealth and BYOD is just emerging, and the full extent of its influence remains to be seen.

More Articles on mHealth and BYOD:

4 Recommendations to Fight Rising Prevalence, Cost of Hospital Data Breaches
9 Best Practices For Hospital Data Security in a "Bring Your Own" Era
Healthcare and Finance Lead Industries in Employee-Owned Mobile Devices

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