Use of mHealth for clinical trials drives better care, lowers costs

As consumers continue to embrace mHealth tools to track their care, researchers are using the devices in a different way--as part of clinical trials. 

One institute using the tools this way is Chicago's Northwestern University. Researchers at the Feinberg School of Medicine, for a clinical trial, have created a website and mobile apps that allow physicians to teach mental health patients therapy techniques and show situational use of techniques via text, video and animation technologies, according to a Healthcare IT News report.

Not only do the website and apps make it easier to engage trial participants, they can also lower costs. 

"Costs can be saved by giving depressed patients these kinds of tools, decreasing overall health care utilization for an individual," Kenneth Weingardt, scientific director at the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies and licensed psychologist, told Healthcare IT News. "We are now saving more money because the cost of the app is much lower than the cost of face-to-face."

The number of U.S. consumers using mHealth apps and wearables has doubled from 16 percent in 2014 to 33 percent as of this month, according to Accenture, and four in 10 consumers using apps have discussed or shared app data with a physician in the past year. Fitness focused apps are nearly as popular the top consumer mHealth product, the smartwatch, according to a Consumer Technology Association report.

However, a Commonwealth Fund report last month noted that very few mobile health apps are useful, and more than a few disregard safety and quality in a quest to provide wider functionality.

Northwestern's Weingardt, however, has a different perspective.

"Mobile interventions have much farther reach than individual providers can have," Weingardt told Healthcare IT News. "They can reach many more people beyond those we can see in our clinic. And a health system that adopts these kinds of tools can improve their bandwidth and their ability to address these problems beyond the capacity of their workforce."

For more information:
- read the Health IT News article