Mobile healthcare, telemedicine, telehealth, BYOD

Policy News

How Mobile Devices Could Benefit Medicaid Beneficiaries

By Vera Gruessner

- Mobile devices like smartphones, laptops, and tablets have proliferated a wide array of industries around the world and the healthcare industry is no exception. The US medical field could benefit further from the use of mobile devices and mHealth tools.

Mobile Health Apps

The federal government could also look toward mobile devices in order to strengthen patient care around the nation. The Institute for Policy Innovation recommended for the House Energy and Commerce Committee to consider how to incorporate mobile devices like smartphones in order to improve the Medicaid program, according to a press release from the organization.

This type of integration of mobile devices and similar technologies could improve access to care, reduce medical costs, and enhance the quality of care among Medicaid beneficiaries. The House Energy and Commerce Committee met on Friday, September 18 to discuss ways to strengthen the Medicaid program.

“Since Medicaid’s low-income enrollees have a high penetration of mobile phones, technology integration may actually achieve the goals envisioned by the Affordable Care Act,” Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI) resident scholar Merrill Matthews, Ph.D., said in a public statement.

“Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has taken a step in the direction of modernizing Medicaid,” Matthews continued. “His proposal includes integrating mobile apps to find doctors or clinics, make appointments and manage chronic illnesses and medications.”

There are a variety of barriers standing in the way of healthcare access for Medicaid beneficiaries and it is thought that mobile devices and mHealth applications could prevent some of the most common challenges.

These obstacles include job-related constrictions, rural locations without specialists, and a decreased reimbursement rate among Medicaid healthcare providers, which could affect overall care toward this population.

“Additionally, Medicaid patients have a higher incidence of chronic medical conditions, which put them at greater risk of high-cost medical episodes,” said Matthews. “To help the Medicaid population access healthcare, their mobile phones will need to become their ‘medical home.’ The goal of healthcare reform was to increase access to care, lower costs and improve quality. Integrating technology into Medicaid coverage could play a leading role in that effort.” 

Digital health IT solutions including mobile devices could lead to significant benefits for Medicaid beneficiaries. For instance, adopting telehealth technology could improve access to care among those living in rural communities. Telehealth could also reduce job constraints and the need to travel long distances.

Additionally, remote monitoring technology would promote care outside of the hospital while mobile health apps could better track medication needs and dosage instructions. Even with a typical mobile phone access to healthcare delivery can be improved.

For example, mobile phone alerts and text messages could remind patients to take the appropriate medications at the right time. Additionally, chronic disease management could be enhanced with mobile health tools. Fitness and wellness goals can also be better measured with mHealth devices.

Along with these benefits, telemedicine can offer healthcare providers and specialists more means to communicate effectively and better coordinate care. Medicaid beneficiaries can also receive advantages through electronic health records accessible via mobile devices.

For example, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) and CNSI have created an interactive mobile application meant specifically for the Medicaid population.

“We are excited to provide our citizens with one-stop access to their health records through these innovative solutions,” Nick Lyon, director of the MDCH, said in a company press release.  “As we work with our residents to promote better self-awareness and responsibility for their health status, these tools allow users to easily access and track important health measures right on their smartphones.”

As states across the country continue to implement telehealth coverage laws and federal agencies focus on regulating mobile health apps and devices, the House Energy and Commerce Committee could focus their efforts on including mHealth innovation when strengthening access to care among Medicaid beneficiaries.

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