The Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings released the study “mHealth in China and the United States: How Mobile Technology is Transforming Healthcare in the World’s Two Largest Economies” at a briefing held March 13th.
Darrell West, Vice President at Brookings plus a panel of experts from the China Academy of Telecommunication Research of MIIT discussed mobile healthcare challenges in both China and the U.S. Healthcare costs rising, aging populations increasing, and disparities in obtaining healthcare are threatening traditional healthcare systems.
Xiaohui YU, Chief Engineer for the China Academy mentioned that in 2013, China had 1.23 billion mobile subscribers on record and that means that 90 percent of the population are using mobile phones. Also, information from the China Internet Network Information Center in 2013 reported that 78.9 percent of people using the internet in rural areas relied on mobile phones.
Another panelist Haihua Li, Vice Chief Engineer, also with the China Academy, said, “Mobile health technology in China is growing and will increasingly be used to track medications, to diagnose disease, and to help keep people well.”
One major health problem is that both the U.S and China are faced with the increasing mortality rate resulting from chronic illnesses. The growth in the number of Chinese people suffering from chronic illnesses along with the increased costs for treatment and longer recovery times are putting pressure on the Chinese healthcare system.
Another major health challenge in both counties is the prevalence of cardiovascular disease. According to the Chinese Ministry of Health around 132 individuals per 10 million in China die from cardiovascular disease and this figure is expected to grow rapidly.
Experts realize that real-time monitoring could benefit people suffering from cardiovascular disease. The Wireless Heart Health program is being operated by Life Care Networks in collaboration with the Community Health Association of China and Qualcomm is deploying a 3G enabled cardiovascular screening and monitoring system to resource scarce community health clinics in Shandong, Anhui, and Sichuan provinces.
According to Life Care Networks, 96 community doctors are using the screening and monitoring system and 11,012 patients in four Community Health Clinics have benefitted from Wireless Heart Health plus 1,171 have been screened for serious cardiovascular conditions and referred to clinics for further evaluation and testing.
In the U.S., GiGi Sorenson, Northern Arizona Healthcare Director for Telehealth at the Flagstaff Medical Center (FMC) and Director for Respiratory and Neuro/Bariatrics, discussed the pilot project at FMC studying how to better manage heart failure.
The program uses remote monitoring devices to treat patients suffering from congestive heart failure. Many of the individuals have low incomes and live at a distance from FMC. Wireless devices track patients’ weight, blood pressure, and activity level on a daily basis, and then electronically transmit the information to their health provider. Sorenson reports that remote monitoring has helped caregivers maintain close clinical care beyond discharge enabling caregivers to build better relationships with patients.
In general, the Brookings Study explored a number of ways that mobile technology can help with the challenges and transform healthcare in both countries. The study reports in order to further speed the development and adoption of mHealth, policymakers should encourage the use and adoption of cellphones, smartphones, and tablets in medical care.
They should also reimburse health providers who offer consultations, diagnoses, and treatment using mobile technologies, provide a means to deliver medical reminders and diagnostic information to patients and physicians, and finally policymakers should encourage better health data collection and analysis.