News Feature | September 4, 2014

How To Leverage Mobile To Reduce Costs

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Reduce Costs With Mobile

Study Examines Mobile Technology and Its Actual and Potential Impact on Healthcare Costs

Mobile Apps as Tools of Cost Reduction in healthcare: Read Mobile Use Cases for Real Saving” examines the role and potential impact of mobile technology on healthcare costs. Prepared by Mobile Smith, the report outlines spiraling healthcare costs and the tremendous surge in the healthcare apps market, as well as includes examples of mobile use cases for cost reduction in hospitals. Mobile Smith also offers up five steps to prototyping and building an efficient, low-cost mobile app.

According to Deloitte research, annual U.S. healthcare spending is projected to reach $3.8 trillion by the end of 2014. Management of chronic diseases still consumes about 70 percent of healthcare costs, with only 30 percent being spent on preventive healthcare and wellness. In 2013, readmission penalties were slapped on 2,225 hospitals, including 18 assessed the maximum 2 percent penalty. While EHRs are promising tools of insight and improvement in the long run, they impose a huge cost on productivity in the short term, especially for smaller providers.

Meanwhile, almost 100 million Americans now use mHealth technologies, with 38 percent of Smartphone users deeming their mobile devices essential for finding health and medical information, according to Manhattan Research’s Cybercitizen Health Study.

So, can mobile apps actually help reduce healthcare costs?

The 2013 eClinicalWorks survey found 93 percent of physicians believe mHealth apps have to potential to improve patient outcomes, and 89 percent are likely to recommend a mobile health app to a patient. However, the IMS Institute’s 2013 mHealth report states most of the over 43,000 health and wellness apps currently on the market are limited in scope, functionality, and efficiency.

Moreover, mobile app developers do not always have the patients’ or hospitals’ best interests in mind, and healthcare professionals rarely have the means or technical skills to create mobile apps themselves. Only 3 percent of U.S. hospitals offered some kind of branded app in 2013.

Meanwhile, mobile technology trials have shown a 15-20 percent reduction in hospital stays and 30 percent fewer ER visits. The data demonstrates there is a potential savings of more than $23 billion through mobile apps by targeting patients with chronic diseases, bringing $2,000-3,000 per year in savings per patient.

One popular app, iTriage, has implemented a powerful patient engagement scenario that helps reduce costs. The app provides patients with an instant symptom checker, the nearest urgent care or ER locations, and the comparative costs of visits to those facilities. The app can provide hours of operation, wait times, and directions for the nearest facilities, and even give a reminder about filling prescriptions after a visit. The potential cost savings of this app: $300 to $3000 per visit.

Ultimately, the Mobile Smith study outlines how hospitals and other healthcare providers can create their own easy-to-navigate branded app to help manage their own costs. Whether it is an urgent care app, a wellness app, or an outpatient care app, they can have a tremendous impact on patient care costs and serve as excellent patient education tools.