The Evolution of Digital Health to Mobile Integrated Health

By Keith Algozzine, Co-Founder and CEO, UCM Digital Health
Twitter: @ucm_now

As societies return to their normal pace, a key question lingers: how will—and even more important, how should—healthcare change?

Perhaps more than any other economic sector, the healthcare industry was affected by COVID-19, from dealing with an influx of patients, grasping contagion complexities, and understanding safety implications, the pandemic caused healthcare to alter just about every aspect we understand about it. In particular, the rise of digital health and now its evolution into new and innovative approaches like mobile integrated health solutions, (MIH) play an important and industry-changing role.

The start of digital-first health

When the pandemic hit, many providers adjusted quickly and offered telehealth visits to patients. Patients needed to continue to seek care and see their physicians, so telehealth appointments became the answer in a time of crisis. As COVID-19 peaked, the amount of U.S. patients using telehealth grew from 11% in 2019 to 46% in April 2020. A recent study showed that nine out of ten patients who participated in virtual visits reported that it was more convenient than other options for receiving care.

Telehealth allowed providers to see more patients with less administrative effort and less congestion. It allowed for online scheduling, fast and convenient access to care, and more affordable costs for the patient and payer. And with continual advances in technology for in-home diagnostic equipment, labs, and testing solutions, the level and reach of digital health has extended into the home.

The evolution to MIH

The typical doctor’s visit has been, unfairly or not, associated with an inconvenience for the patient and administrative burden for the provider. But with the onslaught of COVID-19, the need for efficiency, practicality, and optimizing logistics rose to priority.

New and streamlined approaches to health care delivery focused on the patient experience and centered on making it as convenient, and safe, as possible. The vehicle to accomplish this was first through telehealth. Now, the model has evolved to a combination of digital and in-person care, with the two merging together to deliver an even higher level of care through mobile integrated health. With paramedics or EMTs in the home with patients, working alongside a provider via telehealth, patients get high-touch care, added convenience, and immediate access. With their standard ways of doing business upended, health care providers have found new and innovative ways to partner together in service to the patient and increase operational efficiency.

Streamlining procedures and systems through MIH improves the experience for patients as well as providers, spurs patient engagement, satisfaction, and, ultimately, quality of care.

The first step in care—the patient

In the 21st century post-pandemic world, MIH enables patients to connect with multi-disciplinary teams of providers, offering diagnosis and treatment, anytime day or night. The patient can then continue care by accessing an extensive range of services first digitally, including primary care, emergency care, urgent care, mental health care, and more. When needed, care can extend directly into the home, with in-home labs or with future mobile health or telehealth visits.

MIH solutions bring about the seamless integration between providers and patients, merging the digital and physical environments, and removing intrinsic barriers for the patient and added complexity for the providers.

When it comes to a provider’s point of view, digital-first solutions allow immediate access to medical data related to a patient’s medical history, it can identify patterns, and enable targeting specific patient populations and recommending interventions tailored to patient needs. These features can assist in maintaining the patient’s overall well-being and quality of care.

Digital-first solutions can help remove structural complexities while also simplifying workflows. Connection to different points of care is streamlined, allowing providers to offer high-quality care to their patients through coordinated, integrated care.