Mobile Health Technology Trends for 2012: Part 2
Mobile Techology is poised to revolutionise health industry. In our new series, we will focus on trends, challenges, opportunities and best practices from the field that we believe will define and drive the future of mobile health sector. This week we focus on challenges that slow down mobile health implementation and adoption.
Mobile Health Technology and Implementation – Top Challenges
Health care on a hand held device is what mobile health is all about in its most simple version. In 2011, Mobile health as a domain emerged as a hot talking point especially with the popularity of mobile technology as well as availability of more affordable mobile devices in the market. These increasingly powerful devices are proving to be a lifeline for people who need improved access to health services.
There is a lot of buzz around the terms like ‘Fitness 2.0’ and ‘Health 2.0’.The trend of using mobile phones for health—known as mHealth—represents an unprecedented opportunity for improving public health. However the success of mobile health will revolve around how vendors and experts can bring in quality healthcare in a user friendly and affordable form to the consumers. Since 2010, the mhealth market has grown at a rate of 17 per cent. It is forecasted that the market will grow at about 22 per cent from 2012 to 2014.
As I said, mhealth applications are useful only if they are designed to take care of real health care needs of mass consumer segments. Accessibility and affordability are real challenges. mHealth industry growth will be driven by how we are able to overcome these inherent challenges.
Key Challenges in mHealth industry
Large quantity of actionable data
Even though mobile health gives access to patients and physicians on a real time basis, it presents the physicians with a major challenge. A huge stream of actionable data is created by mobile health devices on regular basis. First of all, having data is fine, but it is not useful unless we can tap this data and get actionable insights from it. Hence continuous monitoring of patients data and health care attributes holds the key. Not only data monitoring, but also having healthcare experts to analyze this data and recommending follow up actions is critical for mHealth to generate intended benefits.
Privacy of the patient’s data
The security of the data collected from the patients is another important concern, which can affect the privacy of the patients. Recently hackers have been able to break into the mobile voice communications, which has put a serious bottleneck on the privacy of the patients.
There should be professional bodies that should monitor the type of health related information collected and used through mobile devices.
According to statistics, about 8 million patients have experienced breach of medical data in the last two years. The number continues to increase in the present day. A recent instance of data hacking is the disappearance of 1.2 million patients data records from AvMed health insurance, when two laptops where stolen from the conference room. Now mobile or any hand held device is much more prone to hacking and loss.
In the case of managing serious health conditions, patients are required to meet different clinicians to diagnose and avail proper treatment. Each one may have their own healthcare device and application working with different devices, data standards and protocols. The providers should device a mechanism by which healthcare data on multiple mobile devices can be shared and interpreted in a consistent manner. The main objective should be to develop a system that makes data collection seamless and secure.
According to Clive Smith, director of world wide operations at Mobile Health Alliance, interoperability is a major hurdle for mhealth adoption. Currently there are more than 9000 health applications available, but none of them interact with each other or share data.
HL7 is a seven layer communication model aimed at Open systems interconnection. It enables exchange, sharing and retrieval of digitized health information that helps in clinical procedures and the management, delivery and assessment of health services. The emergence of open market OS, i.e. the android OS is an advantage to mhealth. Various mheath applications operate in symbian and windows too.
There are other challenges such as friction between younger physicians and older ones, on the basis of understanding and using the technology. Democratization of mHealth will depend on how we are able to encourage and convince senior doctors and hospital staff to use the technology. Experts are of the opinion that the government should introduce incentives to promote the adaption of mHealth. Cultural issues also need to be tackled in terms of appropriate and relevant content. Another aspect of culture is the need to examine and overcome the cultural inhibitions and barriers. Other hindering factors include the lack of localized content both in terms of the language used and the relevance of content to the local situation. We see that these factors are often neglected by mHealth vendors which lead to the failures of mHealth applications especially in developing countries.
Although there is a lot of focus on mHealth, acceptance has been limited across the globe. Some of the reasons cited are the lack of measurement in evaluating success, unclear regulations, payment mechanisms and market failures.
In the absence of demonstrated success of mHealth technology on health behaviors, policymakers and influencers will shy away from investing in new technologies and programs at a significant scale.
On the positive side, the evidence is beginning to emerge. The report, “Analysis of the U.S. Broadband mHealth Applications Market,” notes that the mobile health app market continues to see substantial growth, and is expected to continue expansion as business models and significant value offerings continue to evolve.
We believe that government and regulators have to play a proactive role in realising the full potential of mobile technologies on health industry and positive patient behaviours. A strong collaboration between regulators, health experts, physicians and technology vendors is crucial for the success of mHealth. Focus should be placed on integration of various technologies and applications with legacy systems, introduction of universal standards and regulations to ensure privacy and security. Industry should also establish a viable, measurable business model without which it will be difficult to convince investors and venture capitalists.
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