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Empowering Patients Using Smart Mobile Health Platforms: Evidence From A Randomized Field Experiment

02/10/2021
by   Anindya Ghose, et al.
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With today's technological advancements, mobile phones and wearable devices have become extensions of an increasingly diffused and smart digital infrastructure. In this paper, we examine mobile health (mHealth) platforms and their health and economic impacts on the outcomes of chronic disease patients. We partnered with a major mHealth firm that provides one of the largest mHealth apps in Asia specializing in diabetes care. We designed a randomized field experiment based on detailed patient health activities (e.g., exercises, sleep, food intake) and blood glucose values from 1,070 diabetes patients over several months. We find the adoption of the mHealth app leads to an improvement in health behavior, which leads to both short term metrics (reduction in patients' blood glucose and glycated hemoglobin levels) and longer-term metrics (hospital visits and medical expenses). Patients who adopted the mHealth app undertook more exercise, consumed healthier food, walked more steps and slept for longer times. They also were more likely to substitute offline visits with telehealth. A comparison of mobile vs. PC version of the same app demonstrates that mobile has a stronger effect than PC in helping patients make these behavioral modifications with respect to diet, exercise and lifestyle, which leads to an improvement in their healthcare outcomes. We also compared outcomes when the platform facilitates personalized health reminders to patients vs. generic reminders. Surprisingly, we find personalized mobile messages with patient-specific guidance can have an inadvertent (smaller) effect on patient app engagement and lifestyle changes, leading to a lower health improvement. However, they are more like to encourage a substitution of offline visits by telehealth. Overall, our findings indicate the massive potential of mHealth technologies and platform design in achieving better healthcare outcomes.

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