Mobile health is already part of the overall digitalization of healthcare, but widespread adoption of smartphones, tablets, patient portals and the like won't happen overnight. At the same time, there's no reason to doubt the long-term acceptance of these technologies.
Here are five reasons mHealth technologies will become a major part of healthcare.
1. Financial and outcomes trends of healthcare not only create opportunity for mHealth, but make it an imperative. It is a mistake to think of mHealth as either the next Christmas toy or the savior of healthcare. It is neither. The technologies will change the way the usual suspects in healthcare interact with each other and with patients. Self-management will become part of the landscape. While mHealth will not be the fix to all of healthcare’s problems, it makes perfect sense if one considers the flaws in our current system: communication, continuity of care, caregiver support, efforts to age at home and unacceptable cost escalation.
2. mHealth is already playing an important role part of other countries. The mHealth Alliance has been conducting initiatives in low-income countries for many years. The British press has publicized the positive contributions that mHealth can make and the NHS is encouraging physicians to use medical apps. Text messaging is being used in programs related to HIV, malaria and pregnancy in underdeveloped nations. The importance of mHealth has been recognized by the National Institutes of Health, which has established mHealth Training Institutes. Hopefully this will become an increasingly important focus of attention.
3. mHealth is patient-centric. Medicine must obviously become more about the patient and not about the provider or hospital. Digital technologies and mobile health ones specifically are ways in which Health 2.0 and The Society for Participatory Medicine may achieve many of their goals.
4. The U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding issues concerning the healthcare reform law will not alter the need for mHealth technologies. Much of the healthcare industry will potentially be affected by the ramifications of the decisions put forth in the very near future. Regardless of the decision, the need for mHelath technologies will either remain high or markedly increase with the entrance of millions more into the insured patient population.
5. mHealth technologies are already in use and appreciated. We are not dealing with hypothetical situations. Many mHealth technologies are already here and are becoming important parts of healthcare as well as technology planning for healthcare in the future. Physicians have been performing remote monitoring of cardiac rhythm devices for 12 years. Technologies used in clinical trials as well as crowd-sourced clinical trials are gaining traction.
The hype generated almost daily about mHealth is pumped up by investors, consultants and Wall Street analysts. The exact or estimated monetary figures are not important. What is important is the central role that these technologies might play. Their rise to prominence will not be a result of hype but of the true benefits derived from them.
We must let healthcare supply and demand weed out the useless technologies and support the proven ones. For what matters most is the patient. EHRs have not proven their financial or outcomes return of investment yet. The IT paradox effect may very well be in play, and perhaps will extend to mHealth. We will have to see. What is clear is that mHealth tech is needed and not going away, despite backlash from the hype.
David Lee Scher is a former cardiac electrophysiologist and is an independent consultant and owner/director at DLS Healthcare Consulting, LLC, concentrating in advising digital health companies and their partnering institutions, providers and businesses. A pioneer adopter of remote cardiac monitoring, he lectures worldwide promoting the benefits of digital health technologies. He also blogs at http://davidleescher.com. He was cited as one of the 10 cardiologists to follow on Twitter and one of the top 10 blogs on healthcare technology.