Health care is becoming increasingly focused on patient engagement. With more hospitals shifting toward value-based care, patient-friendly technologies are popping up all over the place. Yet the migration to patient-centered care requires hospitals to adopt new workflows, technologies and tools. During FierceMobileHealthcare’s executive breakfast panel “mHealth’s Role in Patient Engagement,” numerous experts in health IT gave their input on the direction the health care industry is heading regarding patient-centered care. Many participants made the point that today’s health care environment is moving to online formats and tools, just as other consumer-based industries have, and that mobile technologies will facilitate this transition. Between the need to reach meaningful use’s patient engagement requirements and more patients having high-deductible plans, hospitals are beginning to understand they need to engage patients in digital formats – and that includes patient billing.

There are numerous ways hospitals are integrating mobile technology, the most notable being point-of-service payments. The latest Pew research in mobile adoption found that as of May 2013, 91 percent of American adults own a cell phone, with 56 percent using smartphones. In fact, the study found 63 percent of adults who own a phone use the gadget to go online, and 34 percent of those with online access through their phones use their devices for the Internet more than other gadgets, such as desktop or laptop computers. In addition, tablet use is also increasing, with 35 percent of Americans over the age of 16 owning a tablet. As consumers, patients now use mobile apps and tools on a day-to-day basis, and hospitals understand what they have to do to take advantage of the growing trend.

Increased awareness about mobile IT in health care
From reminding patients about appointments through text messages to sending quick and easy-to-use patient satisfaction surveys, many hospitals are using mobile technology to foster patient engagement through a great customer experience. In an article for Becker’s Hospital Review, Dr. John Misa, chief of primary care at a Minneapolis-based health system, wrote that after sending 1.3 million text messages to more than 500,000 patients, his health system saw a 28 percent increase in satisfaction survey responses, 96 percent of which gave the health system a 7 or above on a 10-point scale.

In addition, more patients are embracing mobile health apps, of which hospitals should take advantage. Nasrin Dayani, executive director of AT&T ForHealth, AT&T Advanced Business Solutions, said during FierceMobileHealthcare’s panel that hospitals can benefit from patients’ increasing consumerism.

“We need to stop talking as patients and start talking as people,” Dayani said. “People don’t want [to] think of themselves at patients. I know I’ll personally use mHealth apps if they help with my everyday life and become part of my lifestyle.”

Lifestyle is a critical reason behind the shift to consumerism within health care and linking patients’ external lifestyle choices with their health care can help hospitals better transition to accountable care as well as increase their chances of reaching meaningful use. The patient experience cannot be overrated, and hospitals can improve their bottom lines by taking advantage of patients’ adoption of mobile apps and online payments.

Mobile POS will be the future
Paying bills through mobile technology is not a new concept for American consumers. According to the Federal Reserve, 28 percent of cell phone users and 48 percent of smartphone owners said they used mobile banking between November 2011 and November 2012. Hospitals already understand that as soon as patients leave the organization, the health system’s chances of receiving timely payments fall to less than 50 percent. By using POS payments, hospitals can increase patient satisfaction and the overall patient experience. POS payments encourage consumers to pay off part of their medical bills before they leave the health system, benefiting both patient engagement and the hospital’s bottom line.