The Gimlet Eye appreciates a little support from the kind-of-mainstream HuffPo in questioning some of the overheated enthusiasm around mHealth and the app explosion now estimated at 44 million downloads this year. Barbara Ficarra takes an even-handed and reasonably thorough approach appropriate for a general audience, first defining mHealth (including fitness tracking), tracking the buzzy explosion in social media chatter, itemizing the wildly varying projections (Frost & Sullivan’s $392 million in US by 2015, research2guidance’s $1.3 billion globally this year), but then gets down to cases with questioning how consumers and doctors will know which apps are accurate, safe and reliable. Mentioned as ‘trusted suppliers’ are health providers, American Red Cross, retail drug stores and Happtique’s app certification program for providers [TA 18 July]. FDA is depicted as a necessary wet blanket. And there is always that jaded end user who’s downloading and using the app twice, not putting in actual data and then finding the app not engaging. Is the reality as Dr. Joseph Kvedar of Partners HealthCare put it, “There’s a short shelf life, don’t expect it to change your life.”? Too Much Hype in the Mobile Health App World?
I made a point by point review of this interesting Huff Post article by Barbara on my blog:
> The App market is very very far from being a “no rules to the game”.
> The NIH consensus definition of mHealth is inaccurate and won’t stand the test of time.
> mHealth isn’t in its infancy and the significant revenue projections from research organisations that sell expensive papers are to be expected but still don’t even keep up with the native mHealth app market
> The idea of the FDA providing a “filter” that will reassure consumers is fanciful
> In my opinion it’s odd to suggest that “mobile technology may help to transform the lives of patients and provide a stronger partnership with health care providers’ when it already is…
> I thought the idea of a printed magazine to tell you how to use an iPad is funny (i see half a dozen selling in airport news stands) but a set of books to help consumers navigate mHealth apps is in my opinion completely missing the point.
The danger is when we start to believe the inflated consultant reports that continuously predict that healthcare is at the edge of a major technology led transformation. I have been seeing these reports for the thirty years I have been in healthcare, and the reality is that despite the enormous promise of transformational changes in healthcare, the reality is that the only thing that actually changes healthcare is reimbursement reform. If you look at the reform underway in the USA today, it basically brings them onto a par with the rest of the civilized world in recognizing that healthcare is a universal right, and that to make it so, the providers need to be guaranteed payment. The tools they select to deliver the care will vary, and at the end of the day you can’t replace the clinical acumen of a trained professional who is rewarded for delivering high quality care, and has the social responsibility to want to improve the quality of life of their patients. MHealth is just another tool in their arsenal, it facilitates their interaction with their patient and their peers, but it does not replace it.
We are very much still on the hype phased MHealth, until such time as it becomes ingrained in clinicians and consumers behaviour,or reimbursement is provided for its use,it will not become mainstream. That cannot be driven by reports that predict its success, only by the systematic use and evaluation of the healthcare profession itself.
“We are very much still on the hype phased MHealth, until such time as it becomes ingrained in clinicians and consumers behavior,or reimbursement is provided for its use,it will not become mainstream.”
What makes you think it isn’t ingrained?
Most of the clinicians I meet with have their mobiles turned on permanently and find it difficult to remember when they were last unreachable as during work/conferences etc most of them now have it switched to silent. Typical answers include “when I flew to X I had it off but I turned it on as soon as I landed”.
I was in a waiting room yesterday and all 15 patients there had received SMS appointment reminders.
Donna Cusano, Ed.
SMS (text in the US) is becoming more routine for appointments–my chiropractor’s been using it for some years. But the buzzy stuff around mHealth isn’t this or even Text4Baby or other health reminders, unfortunately. It’s the consumer self-tracking, ‘quantified self’ cool devices, and imaging stuff that gets all the hype. I believe we’ll see the last becoming routine on a professional level (because it’s an [u]evolution[/u] from PC to mobile) long before pure self-tracking for diabetes (for instance) gets adopted by the consumer on a consistent basis. My bet would be that it will have to be packaged up and made ‘fun’ or rewarding in some way to go mainstream.